At the moment I’m sitting at the dining room table—I’ve forsaken my desk in the living room for a change of venue the past few weeks because, sometimes, it gets to be too predictable staring at the same wall and, well, it’s in the living room, which no longer seems like the best place for getting work done. But the dining room, that’s the sort of room that rarely gets used in a house (almost as rarely as our guest bedrooms, one of which gets used for ironing and the other as a staging area for all the crap I’m trying to get rid of on eBay). Either it becomes this quiet, dusty shrine to dinners never held in lieu of the kitchen (or, more likely, the living room) or the table becomes that one clear, flat surface where you don’t have to move anything to spread your work out. I think I could lay thirty manuscript pages edge to edge without running out of room, maybe more.
Almost, anyway. At the moment, in addition to my laptop, there are two back issues of Poets & Writers, a copy of Jameson Currier’s The Third Buddha, the novel I’ve just started reading again after finishing The Great Night. (I may have to go back and reread the last half of that book, because its chaotic, dreamlike structure was hard for me to follow.) The novel is sitting on top of my Kobo, where I’ve also gone back to reading The Sea Wolf. (I’m trying to be less afraid of the classics.) I’ve also got two back issues of One Story (if you’re not reading this, it’s the one magazine I would urge you to pick up) and an old journal where I’m sure I wrote something I need to find for the novel I’m working on.
There’s also an invoice for the cruise we’re taking over Halloween (very excited) and warranty information on the washing machine, which sounds louder than a jet engine when it goes into the spin cycle (less excited about dealing with that, but not really wanting to lose my hearing either).
I’d much rather read at the moment than write. I need to squelch that urge though, because, as I’ve mentioned, I have a deadline. In one article in the latest PW, an interview with debut novelist William Giraldi, he says writing “is still an excruciating endeavor for me. Honestly, I don’t like it all that much. I’d much rather read than write.”
So true. When I say I love writing, I’m basically lying, or at least being almost deliberately inaccurate. I love having written would be a better way to put it. When the writing is really flowing, when the story comes together—that part’s great. Sometimes I think digging ditches might be easier. Well, perhaps not with my back.
There comes a point when I have to put reading by the wayside while I’m working on something. Poor Jack London is probably going to get left mid-stream again, my stack of unread New Yorkers is going to get even higher than it is now.
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