On Spending Money I Don’t Have.

What the cat is reading

What the cat is reading

Right now, I am waiting to hear from an editor about a manuscript I have already revised at least four times. The editor I am waiting to hear from isn’t even the editor who bought my book.   That editor has gone off to start her own imprint and I am starting over with someone I don’t know. To say that the waiting makes me anxious isn’t exactly true. My unease comes more from the sense that whatever I thought I knew is about to change.

I find myself cleaning the floors a lot, swearing in the car in traffic (easy to do in DC), and reading more than usual. What I need, whenever life is scary, sad, annoying, or full of waiting, is to read. This fall, I have been on a tear, spending money I don’t have on hardcovers, new paperback editions of old favorites, and short story collections. A few years ago, one of my students said that I should have a better grasp of contemporary children’s literature. I guess she hadn’t like my suggested diet of George MacDonald, P.L. Travers, E.B. White, and Hodgson Burnett. I thought at the time how lucky it was that I hadn’t sent her in the direction of Henry James (I am not a huge fan of his, but Turn of the Screw is the best ghost story ever). Now I wish I had converted that student to my belief that reading beyond what you know is the only legal activity which can transform how you think.

We all became writers for different reasons, in that we all fell in love with different books. Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence may not be why you signed up for this life, but even if you couldn’t pay me to revisit Ann Rice or Stephanie Meyers, if they are why you are here, it’s what I most want to know about you. Just today, or sometime this week, read something that’s not for school or work. Read because you want to be the person who changes what you know. You don’t want it to be your editor. Or your floors or your colorful language. Read as if your life and your bank account depend on it.

My most recent bounty

My most recent bounty

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “On Spending Money I Don’t Have.

  1. martineleavitt

    Yes, Age of Innocence – a reason to sign up for life. But I have suspected for a long time that I should be reading to change what I know. Thanks for the nudge in that direction, Garret!

  2. louisehawes

    Are so many of us AoI fans? I must have re-read that novel 50 bezillion times, and each time, I hope the ending will change!!

    • Thank you, Louise, for writing my next post for Write at Your Own Risk before I got to it. I think, for me, it’s fall, more than anything else, that makes me want to stock up the larder with books I don’t simply want to read but need to read. It’s about topping up your psychic energy; it’s about knowing all the sinking day that you’ll get back to a narrative that evening — and in front of the fire, no less — that is already beginning to haunt you and you haven’t even got to the end. Reading well to me does not mean reading what I’m supposed to read. When it feels as if your well being depends on the books you read, keeping up with the times will never suffice.

      • Dearest Louise — the first time I realized that it was NOT going to go well for the countess, I was 15 years old and it was 2 in the morning and I couldn’t BELIEVE how things were turning out. Now I have a great deal of empathy for how life is a series of choices that often aren’t choices we want to make. Tim — I wrote the post, not Louise. Garretfw is Garret. Miss you both, xox, G.

      • Oh, silly me. The first thing I got in my inbox was Louise’s response and… I’m not going to explain, other than to say I read the pages of books with far more alacrity and focus than I can read the thrust and parry of a blog. But the point is, your blog was great. And, now that I think about it, I did wonder what LH was doing in Washington. Thanks, Garret. Miss you, too.

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