This morning I wondered what Evel Knievel did to unwind at the end of the day. Did he cruise on a Harley, wind whipping through his bandanna? Did he own a vintage Honda that he only puttered around on, keeping it under 50 miles per hour? Or did he do something so out of character—like knitting or penning sonnets—that he found was the only way to relax?
My typical day involves a lot of reading. Currently I am rereading the manuscript I wrote with Joan. We’ve tweaked it, fine-tuned it and now feel the need to read it once more. At 90,000 words, I’d say we’ve read it through at least five times now. Thankfully, I’m not yet sick of it. One more time? Maybe that would put me over the edge.
I also read other friends’ works in progress. Sometimes it’s a short story or a poem. Typically it’s a chapter from a manuscript. I love doing it. It’s fun to be a part of the creative process, especially early on, and I feel vested in their success—thrilled to be a trusted critic.
Additionally, I freelance write articles for magazines. Finished one today. Have another one due Friday. And then I blog when I can think of something half-way interesting to say. Factor in emails, online reading for research and for amusement, and by the end of the day, my vision has had a workout. And I still don’t wear glasses! I’m sure it’s coming.
I’ve whittled my television viewing down to two shows I follow, so relaxing in front of the television at the end of the day doesn’t happen. I avoid the news (I can catch what’s relevant online) and abhor reality TV (except for Idol) and most everything else that’s on.
So, when I need to wind down and go to sleep, I read. (This is after about a half-hour of reading to my daughter who always wants just one more story, please.) Not surprisingly, my eyes are pretty tired some nights. I have a stack of books that friends have sent me recently. Jennifer bought me Twilight—which I intend to read to see what the hubbub’s about. Sonya mailed me Liberating Paris at least two months ago. And Trisha sent me Resistance and The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen earlier than that. I’m sure they’re great. And I’ll get to them. Soon.
But lately I’ve been drawn to reading short stories. A friend loaned me two collections: Glimmer Train and The Best American Short Stories 2005. Fascinating. I’m not sure I’ve written a short story since college and it’s clearly an art form. Some I’ve read have left me wondering, What was the point? And others I’ve been haunted by for days afterward. When I finished “Until Gwen,” I was so moved I looked up the author online. Then I was embarrassed that I didn’t recognize his name: Dennis Lehane. He also wrote some pretty successful novels: Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone. “Until Gwen” is written in second-person and done really, really well.
Last night I was reading another short about a woman whose daughter was caught up in a cult the mother couldn’t penetrate. The only evidence of her child’s existence was a birthday card that would appear anonymously in her mailbox each year, addressed in her daughter’s distinctive handwriting. In the middle of reading that story, I completely lost interest. It had nothing to do with the writing, but an idea came to me for another novel I’m currently working on. So, I crawled out of bed and went searching for some paper and a pen, jotted down some notes, and then went to sleep completely inspired to start over again today.
Doubt if I rode a motorcycle the same thing would have happened…but who knows?