This year, I kind of backed into a resolution: to read more. It seems like a no brainer that a writer would read—nonstop. But even when I was teaching, I would get stuck for long periods of time not reading something new. Now, I would reread a lot, but that’s not what I mean. One of my favorite books to teach was The Scarlet Letter (If you just involuntarily groaned because of your own high school experience, meet me at Waterbean Coffee in Huntersville sometime for a refresher. I get it: my own high school teacher never got around to actually using the word adultery for the entire duration of the novel. I still don’t know how that’s possible.). Hawthorne’s diction, sentence structures and, ah, the character development…who knew Puritans could be so engaging?! And despite my meticulous teaching notes and material, I always reread it in preparation.
So, it’s no surprise I couldn’t fit much else in very often. But I realized that my own writing was stagnant, which would happen if you only listen to the same albums over and over but want to create new songs and can’t.
Lately, I’ve been reading several great nonfiction books, spanning quite a range: Troublemaker by Leah Remini (about her life in and while leaving Scientology); The Time of Our Lives by Peggy Noonan (a collection and her commentary on much of this Reagan speechwriter’s best stuff); and So That Happened, Jon Cryer’s memoir (“Two and a Half Men,” Pretty in Pink fame). Also, I’ve just finished Patricia Cornwell’s Depraved Heart (I must read any new Scarpetta novel.). I recommend all four for very different reasons; but I know I’ll refer to Noonan’s book for years to come. Her chapter discussing how she wrote the president’s speech to address the Challenger explosion is worth the book price alone.
But this ‘80s child at heart (wondered if I’d ever get to our month’s theme, did you?), I found a line in Cryer’s book today that resonated—in color, I might add—with me this morning. He’s talking about having read for the part of The Karate Kid and how he thought the film overall and even Daniel’s character was trite and cliché. But when he overheard Ralph Macchio audition, he realized that some things have no place for cynicism. He writes: “Every story’s been told. It’s how you tell it that makes the difference.”
With that, I’ll try to read more, take in more and more varied opinions (If that’s possible; hey, you saw the last four books I read!). If we do the same things over and over, we’re not only hurting ourselves but possibly cheating those around us.
OK, so maybe not gracefully, but that’s the Matter of My Heart. What’s the matter of yours? I’d love to hear from you your thoughts and your inspirations.
Take good care,