There’s one piece of advice for writers: write every day. I would modify that a bit to say it’s okay to read, too, even if you don’t get a chance to write, because reading is in itself like practicing writing. That’s how I discover new words or find out the cadence I like. In fact, another tip for writers is to imitate writing that they like, that they think is good, in order to become better writers.
I was at a Christmas party recently and was asked what kind of books I like to read, a fair question whose simple answer is, “I read across all genres, except I can’t do horror.” It depends on my appetite. It’s a hard question to answer specifically when it’s possible for me to hop from philosophical fiction (The Fountainhead), a couple of novels by my new favorite author (Plainsong, Eventide), and a classic (Emma), to autobiography on audiobook (Farm City), a nonfiction book which was like an elongated sermon really (Forgotten God), and mystery (Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder).
On my list of books to read in 2014 is GK Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, which I have been able to find for free online, and Emily P. Freeman’s A Million Little Ways, whose blog I’ve been following for a time now. In the blurb that she uses to introduce the book, she writes, “It’s time to uncover the shape of your soul, turn down the voice of the inner critic, and move into the world with the courage to be who you most deeply are.” Yes, it certainly sounds like vague mumbo-jumbo, some sort of spiritual self-help, but I’ve been reading her posts for a while now, long enough to know her book is not a gimmick.
The thing is, I’ve been rediscovering myself. I feel like Frog & Toad who go on a trek because they’re bored of home. One says to the other, “Let’s see what’s out there so we can add new things to our lives,” so they journey across their world trying on different clothes, eating new foods, and singing and dancing in strange ways. Before long, they’ve forgotten what home looked like or that they had set out with the intention of returning home at all. When one day, they see a road they don’t recognize, they immediately take it thinking it’s new, but when they get there, to their pleasant and delightful surprise it’s their own house. In Arnold Lobel’s style, Frog & Toad would discard all their accumulated junk, Hawaiian shirts, empanadas, lyres and all, everything tossed to the wayside, and the story would have ended with Frog & Toad sitting in their favorite chairs and sleeping in their favorite beds, glad to be home at last. I feel like Frog & Toad in that I’ve been journeying for so long, but in my version of the story, I take the best of the old and the best of the new and piece it together, with the end result more satisfactory than what was there before. I think that’s where Emily’s book will come in, helping me fit both perfectly together.
Finally, none of this contemplation would be possible without this cough and cold thing I have going on. Whatever I have must know it’s Christmas because this is one cold that never stops giving: dryness, sore throat, mucus, runny nose, body aches, sore muscles from coughing, tickle in the throat waking me up at 2 AM, low-grade fever, and now, a headache. I’m convinced the headache’s caused by my brains mercilessly rattling inside my skull from all the coughing. Now I’m resting and have time to wax poetic in long posts like these.
Hope you are all coughing less than I am (not hard to do)!