I’ve changed jobs. And so I’m reading less. My last job, where I worked for 13 years, was 50 miles from my house. For 75 minutes, twice each day, I would listen to audio books. Drive the roads I knew by heart and take in the words of writers. To feed my heart. My brain. My inner writer.
Now I work 12 miles from home. The urgency to fill that time isn’t there. It’s easy to tune into NPR for a quick news update. To listen to the local independent radio station. Or to a few Josh Ritter tunes.
But I miss the reading. The listening. The thinking about writing during those hours every day.
And I’ve been cranky. Crankier than one would expect given the diminished stress I should feel about not being on the road for so long every day.
Writing, even thinking about writing, centers me. Listening to writing, thinking about the writing of others, the craft. Focusing on the words. Imagining characters. Disliking a piece of work. It’s all connected. To the work that I do as a writer. To my day. To my state of mind. Listening to writing also makes me more likely to talk about writing. And reading. And the more I read the more I want to write. I haven’t been doing enough of either lately.
Ironically, the last book I devoured was Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing, a book about writing. But it’s really about so much more. And it oozes with support and respect for writers and is at once encouraging and inspiring. I love books about writing and have shelves of them at home. But this one has moved to the top of my list of favorites. It is inspirational but also practical and helpful. Because I had the honor of attending a writing workshop with Shapiro a few years ago, I can almost hear her voice when I read her words. And I can most definitely see her as I read. She sits barefoot and cross legged, listening listening to the uncertainties of other writers. And then responding in ways so supportive, so possible that I want to bleed ink onto pages.
My list of books to read is long and growing longer. And in this time of transition I need to work harder to go to that list, to choose a book, to start up my listening and reading habits again. All will help me get my own words down. And that will help me to feel more like me. A writer who reads. A reader who writes.