You have to be a reader to be a writer. Common sense tells us so, as well as every instructor in those week-long $800 writing workshop. I am most definitely a reader, but I also have slumps. Not as bad as the writers block but definite slumps. And these tend to occur when I’m reading a book that I really and truly don’t care for but I feel like I should read because, a) everyone is raving about it, b) it’s a hard cover, c) I’m half-way through and I’ll feel like a loser if I stop, d) I keep thinking it will get better, and e) generalized guilt.
I have piles of other books I would rather be reading, but this book (the Bad Book, we’ll call it) just throws a major monkey wrench into my reading flow. The Bad Book is irritating and tedious, but at the same time it makes me feel inadequate, like there must be something I’m missing. It’s especially frustrating when the author is prolific and you’ve never heard of him/her so you start one of the many novels and then wham–you’re suddenly moving through some thick bog of a plot or ridiculously self-conscious language and you feel like you’re sinking. Your body feels swollen and your eyes turn to stone and you get dry mouth. Now you start avoiding it. The Bad Book sits on your nightstand or under 2 weeks of mail or on the tank of the toilet and it taunts you. You start reading Cooking Light and Crate and Barrel catalogues and even the month old PTO newsletter pleading for Box Tops for Education (what a pain in the ass those are–but that’s another blog).
Finally, you either pump up on caffeine and m&ms and go the distance or you give it away so it’s not in the house anymore. And then you pick up a book that can keep you moving, like Just Kids or Half Broke Horses or Mudbound or Lit or Mockingjay or The Forest for the Trees, or The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. And you disappear and don’t come back until that final page where you feel anguish and jealousy and pure awe. There’s nothing quite like it. You fall in love.
So, any advice on what to do with my latest Bad Book? I am halfway through and I’ve started reading the backs of cereal boxes.