Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Reading and Metronomes


I am as guilty as the next party of pushing reading to a back-burner, feeling that if I take time to read in the middle of the day instead of at night AFTER I've finished the demands on my time as a writer, I'm a horrible author. The thing is, why do we write? So people can read. After several days of pushing hard at Anon, Sir, Anon, and finding nothing is budging, I am going to give myself the day to read, draw, write letters, whatever, and count it as a creativity-replenishment day. We can't always be pouring out without refilling. To take a comment from Jenny in one of her recent letters:
"I was feeling unmotivated to write, which was no doubt due to my lack of fiction in-take."
That is exactly how I feel. The only reading I've done recently has been crammed. Cram down the rest of Bonhoeffer so I can return it on Sunday; cram in Duty so I can review it. Cramming isn't good for the mental digestion. It gives one a stomach ache. I could sit here at the computer toiling out a thousand words that mean nothing to me, or I could read several thousand that will spark new ideas. In our music theory class, Dad was telling us how when he worked at Tanglewood for a summer, certain musicians would wear metronomes around their necks for eight to ten hours a day so they could better internalize sixty-time. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Reading is the metronome for writers. The more we read, the better we subconsciously internalize the talent and creativity that went into whatever book it is we read. That is why reading poorly written books is a waste of time. If we internalize and become what we read, it doesn't pay to fill ourselves with drivel. Nor does it pay to write drivel. If we're writing drivel, we have probably been away too long from our metronome. So today I'm not going to create my own fiction...I'm going to internalize someone else's, and enjoy words for their versatility and beauty. You don't always have to harness beautiful horses...sometimes it's better to let them run and watch from a distance. If we are the let words run today, I want to leave you with this amazing snatch of poetry by Edward Shillito in WWI:

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow,
We must have thee, O Jesus of the Scars.
The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars, we claim Thy grace.
If, when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know today what wounds are, have no fear,
Show us Thy Scars, we know the countersign.
The other gods were strong; Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God's wounds can speak.
And not god has wound but Thou alone."

2 comments:

Elizabeth Rose said...

"This is kind of an off day for me, this doesn't usually happen."

It's somewhat relieving to hear that even the incomparable Rachel has her off-days. You've plugged away faithfully at Anon, Sir, Anon, and a day for replenishing creativity seems just the thing. Enjoy it, dearest, and remember that a writer's life is just as much grace as discipline. :) With a beautiful poem like that to inspire you, you'll be back at the grindstone tomorrow with a hatful of inspiration!

Rachel Rossano said...

Well put! I have been having similar problems of late and took some time the other day to rediscover my first love of the words by reading for a day. Oh, so lovely. It felt so good to simply soak up someone else's hard work. :)