Sunday, June 28, 2009

You Are What You Read

An epiphany, sorta! Okay: bear with the (partially) linked ideas of a messy mind, to wit--you know how there are some of us who take on the accent of whomever we're around? Like Madonna got that British accent? And the adorable owner of the Swiss B&B I stayed in with my family last week who, by the way, had no subcutaneous flesh in his face because he's an extreme sports guy and he's burned it all off by doing insanely dangerous physical things--anyhow, he has this beautiful "European" accent, we were all in love with him, and he turned out to be from Roanoke, Va. But we didn't care. It wasn't fake. It was real. He's a sponge, is all, which is why he can fit into the Swiss culture so easily, I'm guessing, or really any culture.

Okay, so I'm a sponge too. My kids accuse me: suddenly, I'll be saying "y'all" on the phone to the Terminix guy. (You live in a ranch house in NC, you either have Terminix or palmetto bugs. I cannot stand palmetto bugs.) So maybe this explains WHY I CAN'T READ WHILE I'M WRITING. It's not my fault. I'm a natural copycat. One night at a dinner party, I got a little drunk and started speaking with the cadence and manner of a favorite guest. "How kind of you to ask," I said, just as he had not five minutes earlier.

For those of you who have written a large document--a novel, say--you know that this means that I lose custody of my most beloved for a year, two years at a pop. It's not a conscious thing. It's more like a ripping asunder. It's visceral. I've tried everything--reading a genre different from my own, reading Chekhov or Proust because there's no danger of imitation--but it's no use. I can't do it. I can't get beyond a first page. This last time I became deeply depressed. I had to go into therapy, seriously. I didn't know why I was so depressed. But this is it, I'm sure of it. It's as if you'd spent 50 years singing around the house: as you washed the dishes, as you washed your kids, as you washed the dog and then suddenly your mouth was sewn shut. For me, reading was like singing. It's how I defined myself. I'm a reader. Walk into our house: you'll be able to tell.

So, here I am between drafts. The first draft took 1.5 years; I was depressed the whole time. I can't not write the dang thing--I just feel like crap the whole time. Except when I feel wonderful about the whole act of creation thing. You know. That. I wrote a book or two (not including the ones under the bed) but I don't think of myself as a "writer." I just don't. Me? I'm a reader.

An epiphany-let.

Next blog: what I read over my summer vacation. (It's gonna be awesome.)