Yesterday evening and all of today I was able to do something I haven’t been able to do much of recently: read for pleasure and relax. I finished up a big editing project after having big editing projects back-to-back for quite some time and looking at back-to-back editing projects for the near future. While this is certainly good for my bottom line (though after paying my taxes I sometimes wish my bottom line was much lower), working that much without reading for pleasure or letting my brain recharge depletes me creatively (and yes, editing is creative as much as it is logical).
I was lucky over the first few months of the year to read enough great short stories to prime myself creatively to write a short story I had due that turned out much better than I expected, but short stories are easier to fit into my schedule and the writing only took a few days, again, much easier to fit into my schedule (and even then, I missed the deadline by a day). I still have a really ambitious book I want to write this year and to do that book justice, my brain and subconscious need to be working at peak capacity.
And even for my editing clients, the vast majority of whatever editing skill I possess didn’t come from my college classes or from any sort of training I got when working in NYC, it comes from decades spent reading everything I could find and thinking about story and structure and development analytically and methodically. To maintain that skill, I need to make time to read current books and keep thinking about story and structure as it has developed over the decades. So that means that, yes, the nap I took today and the book I read are as important to my process as my senior English seminar on Shakespeare. Maybe more so.
It certainly helped that the weather was absolutely gorgeous. Sunny and mid-70s, so I spent more time outside than I have recently, though I regret not taking a walk like I’d hoped to do, and I’ve noted here before that warm weather always refreshes and re-energizes me.
The book I read helped as well. For the last few years I’ve been trying to work more non-fiction into my reading diet and there’s nothing I like more than stories about writers and behind the scenes stories of stuff. So Seinfeldia, a book about the behind the scenes development of Seinfeld that details a lot about how the writers worked and found their ideas was right in my sweet spot. Reading books like this always inspire me to look at the world anew creatively and help me avoid becoming complacent in my very fine workaday middle class white collar life. I want more from life than any office job or banal hobby can offer and it’s good to be reminded of that on a regular basis.
I also have to shout out to Greg Herren, one of the many writers I spar with online but secretly respect (even if he is an SEC football fan, UGH) whose daily blog posts of the mundane and small moments of his life are always infused with humor and intelligence. There aren’t many author still blogging with any regularity anymore, and even fewer from the crime fiction community, so reading his posts also inspires me to return here on a regular basis instead of wasting all of my good material on Facebook.