[This was written a couple of weeks ago.]
It’s mid-December and today was the first day since the end of National Novel Writing Month that I wrote something. Last week I did edit a few stories for publication but today was working on a story I put on hold for November.
It’s good to be back in the trenches and inspiring last night to read some new stories. As usual, I am bouncing around reading a number of things at once. There is the weekly New Yorker, which I read cover to cover, trying to make it last until the next issue, but that doesn’t always work. This week, the short story is by George Saunders, one of my favorite story writers, so I am anxious to get to that.
Last week, I finished Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and it was as good as advertised. As my husband said, if you took away all the negative reviews written by jealous writers, there wouldn’t be any negative reviews.
I will say it wasn’t as good as The Corrections but that could be because I was so blown away by The Corrections both times I read it. There are plenty of copies of Freedom now in libraries and even used bookstores, so I understand if you don’t want to give Franzen any more money but don’t deprive yourself of reading a terrific story by one of our best writers.
I’ve also been reading, on and off, If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland, written in 1938. If You Want to Write is billed as “a book about art, independence and spirit” and it is all that. It’s also quite funny and poignant. Ms. Ueland was a writer and writing teacher who died in 1985 at the age of 93. She had years of experience teaching writers to “unleash the genius within.” But it’s not one of those new-age of books, at least not to me.
She gives practical and philosophical advice that we all already know, but never hurts to hear again, especially when it’s said so elegantly.
Inspiration comes very slowly and quietly. Say that you want to write. Well, not much will come to you the first day. Perhaps nothing at all. You sill sit before your typewriter and look out of the window and being to brush your hair absentmindedly for an hour or two. Never mind. That is as it should be — though you must sit before your typewriter just the same and know, in this dreamy time, that you are going to write, to tell something on paper, sooner or later. And you also must know that you are going to sit here tomorrow for a while, and the next day and so on, forever and ever….So you see that the imagination needs moodling –long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.
I’m also reading a collection of stories called What Doesn’t Kill You…, published by a champion of the short story, Press 53. The stories I read last night before sleep made me even more inspired to get up today and work more on my story-in-progress.