I just finished reading Stephen King's half-autobiography, half-manual on how to write, "On Writing." It was phenomenal, and incredibly inspirational as I continue on my journey of trying to be a better writer.
One of the major takeaways is something that I've heard in every creative self-help book, which reminds me of my favorite Merce Cunningham quote:
"The only way to do it is to do it."
King recommends writing 3000 words or more every day. I am close to that goal with some consistency, but here's the caveat. Because I am also teaching and preparing to go back to gigging, my "free" aka my creative work hours are a little more slim. I haven't been reading much at all.
I love reading. It's probably in my top three favorite activities, along with hanging out with John and traveling (especially internationally. Airdrop me anywhere and I will glom onto the thrill of adventure and find my way around, I promise you). I have frequently wondered why I haven't read more over the past year, especially with the free time. I fielded this question to a friend who absolutely had the answer.
It's an escape, and escapes can have the potential to feel shameful if they're executed in excess. Alcohol, weed, TV, junk food, whatever your bag is...if you've ever gone on a binge or bender, you know what I'm talking about. I could have been cleaning the apartment if I didn't watch three seasons of "X". I could have gotten up earlier if I didn't have that last drink. I could have done my taxes if I wasn't catching up with an old friend.
Once again, I lift a proverbial glass to the vices.
Reading doesn't have negative side effects. It makes us smarter, and through the learning process, it makes us kinder. Empathy and education go hand in hand. (I will die on that hill. Fight me.) It helps us understand our fellow humans and the world around us. So strike that one off of your "vices" list, now. (P.S. My friend Bill wrote a song about what you should or shouldn't be doing. I highly recommend that you listen to it now.)
Here's the thing: Life experience makes you more interesting. (That's another hill that I will die on.) Without having loved and lost, publicly wept after missing a connecting flight in Barcelona, and partied with strangers in the belly of a cruise ship, it's possible to be missing a flavor in the stew that is you. Of course, sometimes money is tight and/or we make the responsible decision to kick drinking or reckless spending for a period of time. We need a substitute activity.
What better than reading? You can experience all of those things you don't have the money for, all the calories you shouldn't be eating and the drugs you shouldn't be doing-- right at your fingertips--through someone else's lens (...and body. Thank goodness, as I'm a huge Hunter S. Thompson fan).
I can see the arguments for movies and television as well. I'm a fan of both, and admittedly have watched more in the past year than I probably have in the rest of my lifetime. The magic of a book is in the occasional lack of detail; it's the unidentified mushroom, the lack of detail in a character's hair color, the confusion as to the motivation for a crime. There is so much beauty in the obscuring of the minutia, or perhaps the timely revelation of it.
I'm having a fantastic day. John and I took an 18-mile bike ride, including a quick stop at a patio for a coffee/beer, respectively, but the highlight was a few minutes at Myopic Books. That's my favorite used book shop in the city, and I always come home with a treasure trove.
My pickings today included two Stephen King books (yes, dad, I'm catching up...), Oscar Wilde's "A Picture of Dorian Gray", the Guns N Roses biography, and Timothy Snyder's "On Tyranny", which should be a quick read. On deck before I get to these selections are: "The Sunflower", "Mrs. Dalloway", and a few family heirloom finds.
I really love reading. In fact, my new book (eek!) is a drama/romance novel, and the main character is based around her love of books. So I'll consider all of these purchases and all of those slippery hours on the couch with 400 pages pinned up by my fingertips "research". That'll give me the mental pass to continue the deep dive.
What are you reading lately? I love suggestions.
Until tomorrow, stay well, stay safe, and stay kind.