Trying to be less bitter and small-minded when it comes to my reading

Hello friends! I’m feeling better about my health and transition stuff. I’m working on worrying less about things I can’t affect. And by ‘working’ I mean I’m trying to figure out a way to make some tiny amount of progress towards the impossible goal of worrying less about things I can’t affect.

I think the solution has something to do with being healthy-minded? And focusing on today? Who the heck knows. All I know is I refuse to meditate. It’s boring! Meditation is boring! I feel like meditation is for people who don’t like to read, because reading is a lot like meditation–it requires clearing your mind and staying in the moment–and it’s also fun.

I like reading. It makes me happy.

I put on my makeup today, and I looked in the mirror, and I actually liked what I saw! A shockingly unusual occurrence.

Writing-wise, I’m sort of puttering. Have lots of projects. Realized that revising my literary novel will probably take much of this year, so I am focusing on shorter-term goals, like revising my assassin book (just need to clean it up a bit), so I can pitch it to small crime imprints, and working on putting together my long-delayed Cynical Writer’s Guide to the Publishing Industry. I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written–will be happy to have it out there–but at the moment is a bit rough. I wrote it in a frenzy last February and haven’t really looked at it since.

My baby is teething. She has teeth now. For the last six months whenever she has been fussy, we’ve been like "Maybe she is teething". But now it’s happening for real, and she is miserable. Poor little baby. Such a tiny, cute, and poor baby.

I’m trying to be more emotionally healthy all around. I want to have less invested in my self-identity as a writer and a smart person. I am more than just a really, really smart person, I said to my wife, and she said, "Uh huh, I’ve always known that! I always loved you for more than that!"

I said, "Yeah, compared to you I’m not even that smart!" (She has an MD/PhD and is a professor of immunology and infectious disease).

I recently watched the show Ted Lasso on Apple TV. I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend it. Has some of the same vibes as Queen’s Gambit, it’s about people coming together and finding the best in each other. What stands out is the coach of this soccer team is like, "I don’t even care about winning. I just want all my players to be their best selves." It really struck me that Ted Lasso was one of the most secure and generous people I’ve ever seen on TV, and that I am nothing like him!

In the writing world most people are seething vats of envy, but there are some few people who are genuinely good-spirited, and you can always tell just from the way they talk about the books of their contemporaries. They are not only willing to gush about books, but you can tell they’re also very generous readers. They take the book on its own terms, and they respond to it honestly, without reserve.

I am not like that! If a contemporary novel captures me, it’s almost unwillingly, grudgingly.

But the people who are generous in that way are invariably the most beloved people in the industry. My good friend Erin Summerill is one of them. Everybody loves her, because she really likes and gets excited about other peoples’ books. And I don’t know her well, but crime writer Steph Cha, who is the new series editor for Best American Mystery Stories also has that quality. She’s always getting excited about books, and they’re not just the usual suspects either! It’s really nice!

Someday that will be me! I don’t think this means setting your taste or your standards aside, it just means leaving your ego out of your reading. A book isn’t a competition–it’s about what I can get from it.

One thing that’s helped me a lot is reading some of the astonishingly petty and ungenerous reviews that well-known writers will give to books in the various literary reviews. I’m thinking, in particular, of Lorrie Moore’s review of Normal People, in the New York Review of Books. It was good reading. I enjoyed the review. But it also seemed a little mean and ungenerous. It felt like she wasn’t responding to the book the way she’d respond to a book that wasn’t fantastically popular. Not that Rooney needs our compassion! It’s fine if people write negative reviews of her. But I don’t want to BE the small-minded person who pens those reviews. That’s not the energy I want in my life.

Now how to actualize these intentions is another matter entirely, so we’ll have to see.

man people sport motion
Photo by Skye Ryan-Evans on Pexels.com. This came up when I searched for “lasso”

2 thoughts on “Trying to be less bitter and small-minded when it comes to my reading

  1. Margot Harrison

    Hah, I feel the same way about meditation. Never had that thought about reading, though. I like it.

    I’m usually pretty good at setting myself aside when I read, but with certain mega-popular YA books, I have had trouble. There was an author whose style reminds me of mine, but she’s so exponentially more loved and sold and read that it was like seeing an alternate me who had managed to be popular and was taunting me. Not her fault!

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