On the day of writing this (which is not the same as the day posting this) I was ready to abandon this journalling idea all together. I just scheduled my next What I Think About When I’m Not Blogging post for the next day and I thought to myself, “This isn’t a journal entry, this would make a good blog post”. Talking about book projects and challenges is a great bookish blog post and while it has some elements of book journaling it wasn’t the same. I had recently finished writing my review for Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman and I was thinking that this is who I want to emulate. Though I’m not sure I know how to write a personal essay; is it the same as a blog post?
Then while sitting in a room full of salt, I started The Complete Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby (known as The Polysyllabic Spree and Housekeeping vs. the Dirt in the US), which is a collection of articles from his monthly column in The Believer called Stuff I’ve Been Reading. This got me thinking about What I Think About When I’m Not Blogging and how I should go forward. I want to write like Anne Fadiman but I need to start practicing. Nick Hornby mentions in the introduction that he spends a lot of time thinking about how to simplify his writing and I can’t help be feel jealous by this idea; I need to spend more time polishing my own writing to make it sound better.
I am not happy with my writing and I have a feeling I will never be happy with it. My mind races with ideas and thoughts and I struggle to keep up with it. Currently my mind is singing Cosby Sweater by Aussie Hip-Hop band Hilltop Hoods while trying to think about what to write, this is making for some weird typos. Thankfully my wonderful wife is always willing to look over my writing before I post it and make me look good. It isn’t a perfect system, sometimes I want to post something right away but I don’t want to pressure her and other times things get missed and end up in a tweet by Simon and Schuster.
I want to become a better writer and I have finally admitted to myself that I am a writer; I normally refer to myself as just a reader. However I feel the need to document my reading life and while I may never write fiction, I can become a better essayist. The only way I am going to improve is practice and while I feel like my reviews are getting better, I feel like I have been doing myself a disservice lately. I have been so far behind in reviews that I feel like I am playing catch-up. I could write mini reviews and be done with it but that isn’t going to solve any issues either.
Getting back to The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, the reason I mention this books was that Nick Hornby has taken a very simple concept of what he has been reading for the month and builds his essays around that. I am not saying that he is someone I want to write like but I can take that simple idea and start building on that. For example, for this post, I’m combining my monthly wrap up and making it more of an essay. I am hoping I can start with this basic concept and begin to build upon it.
I started What I Think About When I’m Not Blogging because I wanted to journal more and the idea comes from the fact that when I am not reading or blogging, I’m thinking about reading and blogging. I am sure my wife is sick of me being so passionate about literature but she has been great in nurturing my passion and supporting me. Recently I have been having a great time reading, I feel like I have hit this groove and I don’t want it to end. All my free time I want to spend reading but sometimes, I just end up catching up on Cinema Sins or the Climb the Stacks channel.
I have completed seventeen books this month and while I didn’t enjoy some of them, I’m glad to have read them. This month for the Literary Exploration book club I had to read The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, which was weird and challenging, but I managed to finish it. The only other assigned reading I had to read was for a book club that meets in real life and that book was We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler and that was a brilliant but I am still sorting my thoughts on that one.
I had a birthday on the 30th of September and I got a lot of book vouchers for my birthday; I have had a wonderful time buying books and I have already expressed my thoughts about this book buying binge. However, while I have so many new books to read, I have borrowed a few books from the library instead. I know I need to read my books but I was following my reading instincts, which lead me to books like The Unloved by Deborah Levy and E Lockhart’s new novel We Were Liars.
I have found myself exploring the complexities of the mind, not just the psychological but that has been a big part of my reading. Haruki Murakami has reminded me how complicated the mind can be and while reading Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage not only was I converted into a fan but it reminded that I am fascinated by psychoanalysis and should pick up some Freud and learn more about this literary theory.
On the other side of my reading spectrum I have been diving into memoirs, firstly with Ex Libris and then moving onto Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch. I have also mentioned The Complete Polysyllabic Spree already and it has been interesting just to learn about the reading journey. I want to read more books about books; I have another memoir by Wendy Lesser called Why I Read waiting at the library for me to pick up and read next month.
It is a weird situation that I am in; I have so many new books plus plenty on my shelf waiting for me to read but I am using the library so much. I have The Elegance of the Hedgehog and Sylvia Plath’s Ariel to read next month and I am sure there will be more visits to the library. Being able to check what the library has online is not helping reduce my TBR but it helps me to follow my reading interests as they change from day to day. My wife would prefer that I spend more time with what I have and she might be right, however following your heart and reading on a whim is so much better.
I feel like I have so much more to say but I am not sure how people will take this format of blogging so I am going to stop here. I found this an enjoyable experience and I am excited to write more like this and I am going to try and incorporate more of my personal life and thoughts into these in the future. For a first attempt in the new direction, I think this worked well. I am not sure if this will be monthly, weekly or something in between. I will see how things go and I will go from there. However I would love to know what you thought of this; as well as any suggestions or criticism that can help me improve essay writing.