This Week I Have Been Mostly …Brainfeed-ing

I spent time with family on Monday and Tuesday, and also saw my friend and her kids. Wednesday and Thursday, I was a bit run down. I guess I had a mild virus or something. Friday, I picked up. All week long, I wrote little bits here and there, but I don’t like to write when I’m ill, because my words run ill too.

Writer/readers might find this counterintuitive, but I do not write my best stuff when I write every day, or if I write when I know nothing is coming. Actually, I’m not sure I know many authors who DO write every day. Surely you’d get burn out? I have to say I write a lot, but I write best when I’m inspired and enthused, and it seems odd to force myself to write when I’m feeling ill, when I know a few days of rest, a high vitamin diet, and some Buffy means I’ll be better in no time, and excited about researching and writing prose. Thinking about it, I’m pretty certain the same goes for longer breaks, like burn out, or feeling overwhelmed: don’t sweat it, do something else, and pretty soon you’ll be so excited to write you won’t be able to help it. And what’s more, you’ll write something good, and not shit, or – horror of horrors – mediocre.

Since I was in no mind to write, I decided to #brainfeed (a term I have stolen/borrowed from Nomadness creator Evita Robinson) myself some literature, resulting in my week being bookmarked (ha) by some fabulous novels. The idea of brainfeeding is that what comes out must come from what is put in. If I constantly read crappy thrillers with no characterization, I’m certain I would forget how to draw a human being using words. If I solely watched reality television, I might lose all sense of perspective. If I was constantly on tinder and treated men like they were disposable, I would eventually become a psychopath.

On Monday night, late, I finished House Rules by Jodi Picoult. While reading this book I was waiting for feedback from my UK editor on my latest book draft, and so I was working on another manuscript I have going on. JP writes informative books (this one explores both autism and forensic science), with multiple narrators (something I really enjoy writing), and her books are always enormous. Some I like much more than others. House Rules was great, and I reviewed it here, on my Instagram. In terms of inspiration, it really got me going on this new manuscript, because while the plot is a little The Bridge-esque, one of the themes discussed within is a medical condition. I thought about how JP incorporates autism into her book, and was enthused to write mine.

I think I finished Lila by Marilynne Robinson on Friday. I’ll review it on Instagram in the next couple of days. This novel took me a long time to read. I loved the language, and Lila’s life story, but it wasn’t split into chapters, and so it felt like a heftier read, even though it was half the size of House Rules. I resolved to break down both manuscripts I’m currently working on into small chapters, as I did with Flick and Golden Boy. This is an award-winning book and, while the language is more sumptuous than JP’s, juxtaposing the two books made me relax a little about mine: authors often feel pressured to think about awards, and press, but JP is a very commercial writer. She doesn’t win a lot of awards, but she’s one of the bestselling female writers of all time, which means her work and the ideas in it reach a lot of people, like Golden Boy has. I remembered it’s more important to me that a novel is accessible and can touch reader’s hearts, and spur social change, rather than impress critics.

Next, I started reading All Over Creation by Ruth Ozeki (btw, both Ozeki and Picoult have awesome websites – definitely check them out!). By this time, I had got into a rhythm of reading every day, and remembered how much I loved to do that when I was little. RO is like the middle ground between JP and MR. She’s pretty literary because her characters are so unique, but she also writes to make you turn the page, and her books feature quite accessible or popular topics. RO inspires me because she makes weird choices – for instance, one of her characters in All Over Creation speaks in the first person, and the rest are described in the third person, by an omniscient narrator who is not (so far) a character in the book. I love the sound of her life: she studied in Japan, moved to New York when she was 29, became a documentary filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priest, and now she divides her time between Brooklyn and British Columbia with her artist husband (RO fans will meet a version of him in Tale For The Time Being). To me, that sounds AWESOME.

I am 29 in October this year. I think it sounds like a cool age. I thought that about 27, but I think I was mistaken. Maybe I’ll make a big move when I’m 29. That should work out, because I have been thinking about what I want to do in the next six months, and it is mainly writing, and creative projects. Hard work always precedes change. I wonder where I’ll be in a year’s time, and what I’ll be reading then.