Fridays at The Variegated Life: on what I’ve read or am reading …
In the past few weeks, I’ve started and made my way though at least the beginning of some half-dozen books, maybe more. Of those books, the only one that I’ve started and finished is Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, which I devoured in about twenty-four hours.
And apparently, I am unable to finish reading a book of poetry. Since August, when I started keeping track of my reading, I’ve started many but finished only one, Monologue of a Dog, by Wislawa Szymborska. I’m equally appalled and ashamed.
On Wednesday, I sorted through all of the books I was supposedly reading. Some went back on their shelves, and others went back to the library. The rest I piled into one stack, which I placed on a shelf under our coffee table.
Whatever happens to be on top of the stack is what I’ll read next, until I finish it or decide to abandon it. As new books come in (from the library, mostly; I don’t actually buy books unless they’re keepers or I’m unable to borrow them from the library or a friend), I’ll add them to the stack, but I’m not going to read anything new until I’m done with whatever I’m reading now.
What I’m reading now: an interview with poet Chase Twichell in a back issue of Rattle. It’s a reread; I want to revisit what Twichell has to say about drafting and discovering the essence of the poem. Such as:
A student came up to me yesterday and said, “When you write a draft, how many lines survive in the final draft?” And I said, “You mean, how many lines just came out right the first time? None.” “Really?!” “Really.”
This bit from the interview has been on my mind as I learn to tolerate the awful, awful, awfulness of my early drafts. Alas, it’s the only way to get to the actual poem: a commitment to burn through those early awful drafts and middling middle drafts until the language is true.
So yeah, my commitment problem isn’t just about books. I have a hard time creating new habits, for example. And I have a hard time seeing projects through.
And what gives me trouble is hardly that I’m lazy — quite the opposite. I seem to have an overabundance of enthusiasm. I want to do this! And this! And oh yes this, too! And then of course I end up doing not quite so much as I might otherwise have done, because I was trying to do much too much too much.
For now, though, I’ll commit to working on my commitment problem in just this one area — one book at a time.
How do you keep yourself committed to creating new habits or seeing projects through — or even just finishing a book?