Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Mary Oliver, creativity, and reading slump

I have reached  a reading impasse.  I haven't been able to finish one book since last Thursday.  I keep picking books up and putting them down.  I want something good, to sink into and lose myself in, and nothing is grabbing me.  I love my Jane Austen book, and I am reading the short stories in The Winds of Marble Arch, and am  over half-way done The Morville Hours, and each of them I adore for different reasons. They are lovely and beautiful books.  I want to read though something meaty, something where characters are wrestling with moral dilemmas, with deep drama and conflict, so that I don't feel I'm all alone in trying to sort my life out now.   I think this is one of the ways that books - and literature - are so good for us, for we get to see other characters going through the same things, and see different outcomes. Different perspectives, too, and ideas.

So have you, Gentle Reader, ever turned to a book because it mirrored something you were going through?    If you don't mind sharing, I'd love to know what the book was, or the author .

On the fabulous news front (and I'm sorry these have been in such short supply this year so far), I have begun writing again.  I had been writing my poetry on and off over the past few years, but I had stopped story writing a couple of years ago.  I've started up again, and I feel so much happier now.  This has been a long time coming.   It was reading a post on Mary Oliver that brought me to realize that I have to do what makes me happy.   This was such a good interview on Mary, at Oprah.com, by Maria Shriver two years ago.  I read those words, "We all have a hungry heart, and one of the things we hunger for is happiness. So as much as I possibly could, I stayed where I was happy." and that was
writing poetry for her. I don't know why I never thought of it that way, doing what I liked because it makes me happy, and that is exactly how I feel when I'm writing.  I like how she puts that a calling is something that you can't help but do.  And that certainly is writing, and poetry, for me.   I'm happier, and a happier person, when I'm writing.    I've also been reading Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit, which I saw at Chapters a couple of weeks ago and it reminded me I had my own copy at home, so as soon as I got home that evening, I went looking for it.  She says what almost every writer or poet says:  you must write every day, no matter what. That is the only way to learn and to become better.  This applies to any skill, any creative activity you want to develop.  Just do it, and keep doing it, because you love it.  Isn't that a wonderful way to explore and deepen our connection to life?

What do you do because it makes you happy?


Debi said...

Oh Susan, this just made me so happy to read! Not that you're struggling with things, of course. But that you've adopted the habit of doing what makes you happy! I hope you continue to write and write and write, and that the happiness it gives you fills you to the brim and helps with whatever else life throws your way! It's truly a habit I need to embrace as well--making the time to do the things that make me happy. Despite knowing that it would likely be the best thing I could for myself and my family, I still can't break out of the "but I *must* get all the work done first." Because of course the work is never done.

P.S. Mary Oliver is just pure genius on every level, isn't she? :)

Anonymous said...

I can definitely sympathize with the "picking up and putting down" syndrome. I've dealt with that over and over in the last year or so. Too much stress and upsets.

I am glad to hear that you are pursuing your writing and that it is making you happy. That's important and something most of us don't let ourselves take time for often. Good for you!

Yes, I've picked books up that mirrored whatever place I was emotionally. I think my attraction to books that deal with memory issues in many forms is one way I'm still processing and managing my grief for my folks. I suspect that books that deal with cancer issues will be next in regard to my sister's struggles. And sometimes I just want something to carry me away in the story. Good luck with picking up just the right book at just the right time. :-)

Stefanie said...

Gardening and reading, I do them both because they make me happy. I hope you get out of your reading slump soon!

Daphne said...

I know EXACTLY what you mean, and honestly what saved me was a re-read of the entire Harry Potter series. I guess for me, it took me OUT of my head and into something fun and interesting and yet complex. I just couldn't read grownup books at all for awhile.

Yay for doing things we love! I love reading, gardening, and baking. The one (hopefully) offsets the other two...

Kathleen said...

When I'm preoccupied by things I find it hard to concentrate on reading. I might read magazines or watch a movie instead. I'm glad to hear you are writing again. We should do the things that make us happy whenever we can!

Susan said...

Debi: Thank you! It's so lovely to be writing again, and it does make a difference to how I feel about myself and then the day. You are right too, the work is never done, so I write early in the morning before everyone is up, it's my time. What sorts of things make you happy doing, Debi?

Yes, to Mary Oliver being so honest and clear, it's like a bell ringing and ringing when I read her, sometimes!

Kay: I am so sorry to hear about your parents and now your sister. I know loss is part of life, yet I find it surprising how deep it can go, and how long to go through sometimes. I hope you are finding some good books to carry you through this time. And that you find your own right book at the right time, too :-) Thank you for sharing how difficult you are finding it to read during this year. It's not easy, is it?

Thanks for the support with the writing, too :-)

Stefanie: Gardening and reading for me too! I hope spring hurries up and gets here so I can get into my garden again. I need to see some flowers growing soon.

Daphne: That's so fun, that Harry Potter got you through your difficult life change! It's just the thing to take you out of your head and into a world of imagination and fun, isn't it?

Quite a few of us love gardening, I think!

Kathleen: Yes, preoccupation also affects my reading. My mind wanders and I end up thinking about my problem.....movies are a good outlet. So is walking, I find. Then again, other times I lose myself in books - despite everything this past year, I've been able to read for much of it, so I'm pleased with this overall.

And yes, yes, yes, to doing what we love whenever we can!

Cath said...

The same here... it's just been a distracting month really and all I've read is two books! Family here at Easter and now decorating a bedroom, and then I get a minor crush and reading just goes out the window. 58 going on 16, that's me. LOL. I don't really tend to read books that cover serious issues in my life. I'm not at all sure why but I tend to head for escapism instead. Hope you're enjoying your quiet day of reading and watching the TV.

Susan said...

Cath: what's your crush? lol aren't we all going on 16 no matter how old we get? :-D that's how I feel too sometimes!!

I read mostly for escapism too. I wish I could escape into serious literature too more, though mystery and science fiction and fantasy are the worlds I lose myself in most easily and happily.

Ana S. said...

"This applies to any skill, any creative activity you want to develop. Just do it, and keep doing it, because you love it."

Yes, absolutely. I'm not a writer (well, of fiction anyway), but I can relate to it if I think of my experience with blogging. I just love it enough that it got me through all the ups and downs of feeling discouraged and overwhelmed. Thank you for telling me about this post, Susan. I really enjoyed reading it.

Susan said...

Nymeth: you are so welcome! You write such fabulous posts, such really thoughtful posts and about deep, interesting subjects and ideas, that absolutely that takes creativity, passion and persistence to do it as you do, and as well as you do it. I'm glad that blog writing is a support to you, because I'd hate to lose what you have to say. It's always enlightening in some way :-) as well as lovely.