My writing froze over the last few months. What’s worse, I also could not seem to get into a story to read. I slowed in March to a reading and writing crawl and then, in April, virtually stopped.
I could blame many things, including an extra splash of day job stress and a bad experience with a book that included cat killing. (Seriously. Some books should have warning labels on them. “This book may leave 6-inch scars on your heart and make you want to cuddle your cats incessantly. Read at your own risk.”)
Whatever the reason for my deep freeze, the thaw began with, The Martian by Andy Weir, a book I had heard wonderful things about and put off reading for years. This often happens for me. If people tell me I’ve just GOT to read such and such story, I resist. Something inside me does not want to follow the crowd or have them be right or some such thing. Maybe, I unconsciously save these treasures for a time when I desperately need them like I did this spring.
The first line hooked me, and I felt the zing of envy that I could never have though of it or, if I had, likely wouldn’t have had the courage to use it as the first words of my story.
“I’m pretty much f—ed.” (See? I can’t even write it here.)
“What? What are you f—ed?” I wondered. Andy Weir proceeded to answer my questions in measured doses while creating new puzzles for me just like those great authors do. Also he is fantastic at mathematics which does not seem in any way fair. I try not to hate Andy Weir.
After The Martian, my reading began to pick up speed. I found Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein on recommendation of a writing friend who knew of my reading emergency and promised me intensity and high stakes—two things I need when I am in a soul sucking slump.
I loved this book about women pilots and spies so much and mourned the ending so deeply that the only thing to do to soothe my pounding book hangover was to start another book the next day. (“Hair of the dog,” my librarian friend Beth calls this. Did you know that Urban Dictionary says the ancients actually meant to rub the hair of the dog that bit you onto your wound? Crazy!)
I began the Newbery medal winner The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill within hours after virtually crying in my son’s room at the ending Wein wrote for the Verity book.
Barnhill pulled me up out of my pain within the first ten pages. The lyrical prose and Harry Potter-style magic of Wein’s world sucked me into yet another place.
“In the beginning, there was the Bog. And the Bog covered the world and the Bog was the world and the world was the Bog.”
That swamp monster poet had a way with words, he did.
Now it’s almost as if the books are lining themselves up, calling out to me and I can hardly keep up. Yesterday, I started Nevermore by Neil Gaiman on audio. I have two books requested from the library on good recommendations, and I am planning to listen to Jonathan Stroud’s latest in order to get ready for the last of his Lockwood series with which he has been dragging me along for years now. (Who IS behind that ghost infestation? I must know!)
And now I’ve written a whole post in a sort of reading journal.
“Yes, you are weird,” my work friend Bill said in an email yesterday. “A widely known fact.”
I laughed out loud to read it and knew he meant it as a high complement.
Also, I am writing again. It feels great to get my weird back. Like surviving on Mars, flying a WWII airplane, or drinking the moon.
Wishing you weirdness all your own,