Books are the lifeblood of the writer. Not just because we traffic in them, But like water, we depend on them. We cannot function without them.
But while water in its purest form is a thing we can’t live without, not all water sustains us. Thirst may be a thing we can’t survive, but if you drink muddy water from a scummy pond, you may soon have worse problems than thirst to deal with. The man marooned on a desert island reaches for seawater to slake his thirst and only hastens his death.
I think part of the reason I’ve been in something of a creative funk lately is because I haven’t been reading as many books — or I’ve been reading the wrong kind of books.
A little while ago, I reached for a book that I thought I was going to love: Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn. Flynn is the author of Gone Girl, which I loved in all its twisted darkness, so I figured another book by the same writer would be a sure thing. So I jumped into the book one night, and I read about twenty pages, and I just wasn’t feeling it. No big deal. I was tired; try it again another night. Tried again a few nights on — still nothing. Thirty pages in, it wasn’t clicking with me.
I should point out that this isn’t a review or an indictment of the book. My wife loved it. But it just wasn’t working for me. Now, I’ve got a stack of books on my bedside table just waiting to be read, but I’m this weird creature. I don’t love reading multiple books at a time. I like to take on one thing, drill through it, and move on to the next. If I read too many things at a time, I get overwhelmed, distracted. Like in that old Missile Defense game, where you’ve got like thirty missiles aimed at your base, and you can only blow up so many of them? That game stresses me out.
No, I prefer to keep to one book at a time. But I also don’t like to leave things unfinished. So here I was with this book that I wanted to like. But I didn’t like it, so I didn’t want to read it. But because I wasn’t reading it, I couldn’t move on to other books I might have liked more. I had sipped from a scum-covered pond, and I was, as a result, not only thirsty for proper, refreshing water, but convulsing with dysentery in the meantime.
The bad book was clogging my system, and it was making me feel unmotivated and gross and even, stupidly, bad about myself. (Why don’t I like this book? What’s wrong with me?)
It sat there on my bedside table for a month, and I never got past page sixty. Shameful! And at the same time, I was becoming creatively blocked, as well. Unmotivated. Uninspired. Unproductive.
I don’t know what caused the wake-up, but one day I finally decided to dump the bad water out the window. I moved Sharp Objects to the bottom of the pile and picked up Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King instead. (Yeah, I know, I should be pulling my reading material from lesser-knowns, since I’m hoping to become a lesser-known myself soon. What can I say. I suck.)
And what do you know? Within fifteen pages, I’m fascinated and repulsed by the antagonist, frustrated and sympathetic to the protagonist, and before I know it, I’m 45 pages in and my eyes are drooping because I’m up way too late.
And — wonder of wonders — all of a sudden, a day or two after I ditch the bad book and pick up the good book, comes the thunderbolt from the blue that starts me off on my newest jag. (3000 words in so far. Not exactly awesome progress, but as I mentioned yesterday, it’s summer, and my Getting-Things-Done-ometer wobbles like a weasel in a windstorm over the summer.)
So here’s a reminder to myself. Read more good books. Toss out the bad books. Stay inspired and keep fargoing writing.
Also: bookwise is not a word, I was disappointed to find out. But it should be.
This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.