I fall into patterns. The pattern around here: I write about my personal issues on Thursdays. It’s like you, dear readers, are part of an internet-based group therapy session which you didn’t sign up for, but hopefully we’re all benefiting from it. So, let’s talk about our issues.
Earlier this summer, I put my head in a Nora Ephron book and I’ve only recently discovered that there were other unread pages on my Kindle. Of all the brilliant things she ever wrote or said I’m going to have to take “Everything is copy,” as my personal motto. It’s especially true when you start to think about the parts of life that become appropriate for a “Therapy Thursday” style post.
So let me say it another way: Our lives are stories.
There are good guys and bad guys. There are tired tropes and stereotypes. There are beautiful settings and action sequences and love triangles. There are moments when we say what we mean. And moments when we lie. The most accomplished actors aren’t acting at all. What does that mean about how we portray ourselves in our story lines?
Two and a half hours of quiet writing time and a great manicure are my personal Prozac. #feelinggood— Elizabeth Giorgi (@lizgiorgi) September 11, 2012
When you live by the mantra, “Everything is Copy,” your life becomes something you can own. It’s not just something you’re experiencing. It’s not a bus you didn’t mean to get on. You bought the ticket for this movie - so you may as well show up. It’s why I’m most prolific when I look at my own life and try to derive meaning in the form of sentences and paragraphs.
Pain becomes prose. Happiness becomes comedic dialogue. Challenges become triumphs.
When you sit down and finally hammer it out on the keyboard, how do you portray yourself? Are you the main character? Are you telling the truth? Or are you trying to hard? Or as Nora so perfectly put it:
The big question for Therapy Thursday is this: If everything is copy, are you living your life as the heroine?
I intended to read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) By Jenny Lawson aka the Bloggess, The Magician King: A Novel By Lev Grossman and Imagine: How Creativity Works By Jonah Lehrer. And I dutifully started off well! I started reading Lawson’s memoir and enjoyed the taxidermy stories and tales of revenge - but due to ridiculously glowing reviews - my expectations were too high. And I got to page 100 and I just lost interest. Which leads me to share an important rule I have about reading:
I know this is an unpopular method, but hear me out. There are HUNDREDS, no THOUSANDS, of brilliant books that will capture your heart and mind. There is no reason to keep reading a book that you don’t love. I know, I know. You’re in a book club. Well, SKIM.
I was a little bummed that I didn’t love taxidermy stories as much as I thought I would - but it ended up being OK, because I had other books to read. Just as I was about to move onto The Magician King, Nora Ephron died. I was suddenly ashamed of myself… My friend Jeff had given me one of Nora’s books months ago and I still hadn’t cracked the cover. So, The Magician King would have to wait.
I inhaled I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections. It was funny and honest and not my usual “type” of read, but it was brilliant. I started working backwards from there. Despite the fact that I don’t actually feel bad about my neck (yet!), I still loved I Feel Bad About My Neck. This passage, in particular, was like discovering a nugget of gold. I already knew it - I just hadn’t held it before. It was real to me. It was now my truth.
“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”
I had always loved Nora’s movies, which is why it’s so baffling that I didn’t dive into her books sooner. If for no other reason than because she so thoroughly understood what I loved about reading books (including hers) in the first place.
So now I’m back at The Magician’s King. (Admittedly, I took a minor detour this weekend and read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, because I can’t ever seem to get enough Gaiman…)
I’ve decided to toss out Jonah Lehrer’s book, because if you’re going to make shit up, call it fiction. It’s really that simple for me.
How’s your summer reading going? Do you have rules for when you will stop reading a book? Has your reading list taken any detours?