Happy new year! It's January 1st and as good a time as any for resolutions. Every year my list of goals include a few that are work-related. For 2018 I plan to:
Sleep is important for health and sanity of course but it's also crucial to the creative process. If you don't believe me, just listen to this recent episode of Hidden Brain and pay attention to the anecdote about how Keith Richards wrote the song "Satisfaction."
Read one short story a week
Short stories are highly underrated which is really too bad because I think they have the power to teach us more about craft than any other form. I have a bad habit of reading collections I love fast, just gobbling them up, story after story without pause.
It wasn't always like this. When I was first learning to write, I'd read a story slowly then again and again. I'd think about all the different elements - character and plot and pace and ponder the ending, why it worked or didn't, and whether I would have written it differently. Slow, methodical reading can be so satisfying, like putting a single square of dark chocolate on the tongue and allowing it to dissolve. I want to do this more. And also, I want to read short stories more consistently. So I'm aiming for one a week and when I find one that really speaks to me, I plan to read it over and over and think about it slowly. Today I read Carmen Maria Machado's "The Husband Stitch," which is the first story in her debut collection Her Body and Other Parties. I've read the story before and it has that fantastic depth and texture that the very best stories contain. There's so much going on beneath the surface of the story. It demands re-reading. It demands slow and thoughtful consumption. This week, I plan to give it both.
Read more current books
As a reader, I'm always behind the times, getting round to books two or even three years after they are published. But being a professional writer means being asked to recommend and talk about new reads. Last year by total fluke I happened to read a bunch of the newest books (Son of a Trickster, The End of Music, Brother, All Is Beauty Now, Bellevue Square....to name just a handful) which came in handy. This year I plan to be more purposeful. So far my list includes: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, Neel Mukherjee's latest A State of Freedom, Mary Beard's Women & Power, Machado's debut mentioned above, Zadie Smith's new essay collection, Feel Free, Kim Fu's The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore, The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey, and That Time I Loved You by Carrieanne Leung. That's for starters.