Friday, March 9, 2012

A thing to admit

"Admit" is a word you'd have to teach an English learner very carefully. It brings with it a weightiness; it's a thing you've been carrying around that you really need to set down for a minute. It brings to mind the idea of burden, of secret magnitude. It is not bulbous but meaty, made of stone and carved in the dark alleys of your impulses.

Here is something I'd like to admit:

I hardly ever read (entire) books.

I carry them around a lot. I buy them new, often at full price, and carry them with my laptop while headed to a coffee shop or wine bar to write or edit. Then, I sit them on the table in front of me... and open my laptop. And close it. And leave, books thumbed but not truly entered.

Due to the nature of coffee shop tables—often sticky with cream, sugar, ink that's escaped a page—the books I bring begin to look worn. I go, I come, I take them to my car where they are subject to the weariness of travel. They are on the passenger side floor next to the magazine I edit, they are in the backseat on top of my yoga mat, they are next to me under my Spanish teaching books, fellow warriors in the odd metallic bookcase that is my car.

But they are not often in my hands. Their words remain on the pages and don't travel through me—just, with me.

My current "books I'm walking around with" pile.
Often, we admit things because we'd like to change them. Or, we'd like to think that the admission will spur a change without us having to try so hard. If the whole world can see my faults, perhaps when I am in a coffee shop a friend will come by and ask, "How is that book?" with a wink, and I will know they are part of the team I created to conspire against myself to make me close my laptop, stop working on whatever I'm editing—and editing is also an art to me, but it's so close to my soul art of writing that I can do it and feel productive without producing—and read.

I'm an editor and a writer, but so much of what I do is not reading. I write a piece, and though I'll look it over several times for errors and places to amplify it, this is not reading. I edit other people's work, pull it apart and gnaw on it. And oh, how I remember the details—"This isn't my edited version, this hyphen is not an em dash." But I may not remember the heart of it, even if the peelings are scattered next to me.

To read and read well is a practice. It helps craft the imagination. It helps me sink into that place where I can pull things out and place them, sweaty-handed, on the table in a collage of emotion and inspiration. Reading is the other half of my writing, it is the folded-over blanket, the curve of the body that is so different from the back than the front, but it is still the same body. It is the salve to my ache when that ache is writing, when I have been so far away from it that it scares me. It is the stimulator to my over-edited mind. It is the—here, we're done, we've traveled in and through and out today… where shall we go next?

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