You Don’t Have to Finish Every Book
Last night I made the decision not to finish the book I was reading. I don’t do that very often – in fact, I can’t remember the last time. It’s not that it’s not a good book. It is. It’s this month’s selection by my church book group and, like most of the books we read, is relevant and informative. In short, it’s a fine book; I’m just not in the mood for it right now.
Right now, I need something light. By light, I don’t mean weightless. The book I picked up instead was Anne Tyler’s If Morning Ever Comes. Eighteen pages in, I’m totally hooked, charmed by Tyler’s characters and the insight she brings to her writing. That this book was at hand is serendipitous. I had lunch with a friend yesterday and, because she knew I’d be going past the library on my way home, she asked if I’d return the book for her. I read the back of the book while I was walking from the parking lot to the library (no, I didn’t run into anyone). Those few words, plus the fact that I really, really like Anne Tyler, convinced me that I had to read this book, so I checked it in for my friend and then out for myself.
Back to the book I didn’t finish. I know I’ll read it some day. It came highly recommended by someone whose judgment I trust, someone I admire and aspire to be more like. I only got to page 48, but that was enough to form an opinion. At the point where I closed the book, the characters were in a heart-rending situation, but I could see that it was shaping up to be an inspiring story, a story about the need for second chances and the possibility of redemption – the kind of book I usually love. But, at the moment, I couldn’t stand to be in the skin of those characters. Such is the power of a good book to transport.
I can’t help but reflect on the similarity of my reading life to my writing life. I just finished another round of edits to the book I’m working on and have put it aside until my critique partners have a look at it. In the meantime, I’ll work on another book, one I started some time ago and put aside because I didn’t know where the story was going. I knew the story I wanted to tell, but couldn’t figure out how to make it come alive. I think I know how to do it now. Not every detail. Surprises are part of the fun of writing. But I have enough of a direction that I’m eager to get back to this book.
Just like the book that set off this reflection. I’ll come back to it when my mood is different – when I can enjoy it. Reading and writing, like most of life’s great pleasures, are meant to be enjoyed, not forced. I don’t mean that you should never push yourself beyond what’s easy for you, just if you need a break, take it. Don’t work so hard that you forget the joy.
Happy reading, everyone.