Saturday, February 09, 2013

Writing, and Living, Bird by Bird

I've always wanted to be a writer. Well, that's not true. There was an odd period when we were in the Philippines when I was planning on being a dishwasher. (No, I don't remember what I liked about it, or why I fixated on dishwashing. But despite the fact that I now hate washing dishes, some days it still seems like a valid option.)

But then in second grade, my teacher not only gave me special projects (I spent several days once painting a diorama of Amelia Bedelia. It was awesome.), but gave us writing assignments and then, most importantly, told me I was good at it. I'm not surprised. I found my report cards from elementary school, and the military teachers? Kind of in love with me. Reading some of them, I felt like they were close to stealing me away and raising me as their own. Luckily, we were on a military base and that doesn't fly there.

I've always loved being good at stuff. So much so that I have to force myself to do things which I don't have a natural talent for (my foray into ultimate frisbee springs to mind). Being good at stuff is just about tied with being right in the list of things that I love. So my teacher told me I had a talent, which combined with my love of reading, and boom. The problem of what I want to be when I grow up was solved. You know. Until I actually became an adult and realized that writing is hard and making money at it is even harder. You have to be driven and motivated. And so I went into the non-writing world.

Despite that, I still think someday I'd like to write. And so, every once in a while, I read books on writing, despite the fact that I have done no real fiction writing since college. (I do write poetry. Don't judge.) Which leads to this week's book, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I've never actually read any other books by her, and I only have this one because I stole it from my mom. Who actually is the source of most of my "how to write" books.

My favorite parts of the books were less about writing, and more about being human. A. she's crazy. And the more stuff I read by people who are amusing, the more I realize that we are all crazy. And that makes me feel less alone. B. There was a part about how people use work or drugs or life to lull themselves to sleep. To live in a fog. Given how much and how hard I work, and how foggy that can make me feel... it hit a little close to home (ignoring how much my office drinks to deal with the stress).

Ironically, the human parts were also my least favorite; it's a book on writing, stop proselytizing at me. I know Anne's a Christian. Her new book is on faith, and got rave review from my pastor. But. That's not what I'm looking for in a book on writing. I loved Stephen King's On Writing. It equally dealt with humanity, but I didn't feel like I was being lectured to, or more accurately, like there was a subtle hint of "you should be Christian." I'm not sure why that bothers me. It's a non-fiction book and her faith is obviously an important part of her life. Why would she not include it in a book that talks about how she deals with the pressure of being a writer? But still. It annoyed me.

And yet we'll see. Maybe I'll actually start writing again. Maybe I'll just keep blogging (did you know, I apparently used to update it three times a week?). If that's all that it gets me to do, it was worth reading.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Dodging Reality

I finally finished last week's book, Dodger by Terry Pratchett. I love Pratchett so hard. Last year, I spent a few months reading all of Disc World (which I think got better as you go through the series. The first were good; the last were AWESOME).

Though I have to be honest. I enjoyed the book, but I'm not blown away. Maybe I'm looking for something more from the books for the next year, but the only one I've really felt like satisfied me was Pretty Birds. Dodger was good; it had Charles Dickens as a character, and an engaging main character. But shouldn't this be challenging? I mean, reading a lot has never been an insane challenge. Yes, I missed finishing a book for one week, but that just means I didn't have the like five hours finishing a book usually takes. (Yes, I'm bragging. No, I'm not actually exaggerating, although obviously it depends on the length and complexity of the book. And I was knitting a ridiculous pair of direwolf mittens for a coworker, and had very little free time. PS. Those are awesome.)

I want books with a social commentary, not just ones that I can check off a list. I tried with The Light Years. But it was just a narrative about the life of the upper classes before the start of WWI. Which had potential. I mean, I love Downton Abbey, which is essentially the same thing but more full of cheesy drama. But nothing ever happened. There was no real character growth, no change. No message.

So now I must decide. Is a new year's resolution worth spending time reading books that I'm not sure are worth it? Do I spend more time to try and find the best books of the ones I currently own? I kind of wish I'd thought through this earlier. Then I could have prepared a list: "Books you should read." Instead every time I finish a book, I haphazardly dig through my piles and try and find something interesting. Is it worth reading mediocre books for the sake of being able to give them away?