I sat on my bed this morning with absolutely nothing to read. I finished my last book more than two weeks ago and I have been struggling to find anything that will hold my attention. This does not happen often, but because reading is my favorite pastime, I was lost and terribly bored.
To be fair, saying I have nothing to read is exactly like saying I have nothing to wear. It is me standing in front of my bookshelf frustrated because none of the choices suit my mood. I have thirty-five unread books on my bookshelf. Nineteen of these books have been started (some more than one time) but after a few chapters, the stories did not keep my interest and I return them to the shelf to collect dust.
When I went to my bookshelf this morning and saw these unread books I felt guilty. The first wave of guilt came because I know how much work it takes to write a book. Some of these books have been deemed important work for literature. As an avid reader and novice writer I feel it is my duty to read anything that can make me better at both. The second wave of guilt comes when I remember that not reading these books is a waste of at least $500 which is basically airfare to anywhere in the continental U.S. (maybe even two trips).
To help with my boredom, the natural thought for me was to turn to my writing (after I turned to TV, called my friends, and contacted an Archery instructor). As I was about to settle into revisions I had this overwhelming thought… what if my book collects dust on someone’s bookshelf after never being read?
There is nothing more depressing to me as a writer, than to think that someone will buy my work, initially attracted to its story, but then find themselves unable to make it to the end. I write because I have stories to tell and I want other people to connect with them. I want other humans to feel understood, to laugh, to cry, to be entertained. An unread story means I failed to do my job. I don’t want my stories to just collect dust.
After I spent an hour of piddling around my apartment, I decided to go out for the day. A little brunch (Jabala Coffee) , maybe a movie (Jason Bourne) and then off to my favorite place, the book store (Letter’s bookshop in Durham).
As I was getting ready to head out, I stopped at my bookshelf again for a quick look to make a mental note of what not to buy. I see one of the last books I purchased. It was Junot Diaz’s short story collection, This is how you lose her. I remember being so excited when I bought the book that when I returned home I immediately went to my patio and began reading. It was a great read and I was more invigorated than ever to read another. In the moment of remembering the feeling of finding a great story I had a revelation. It is ok if someone buys my book and never reads it because eventually it will end up at a second hand shop. Someone will pick it up, find themselves intrigued and go home excited to dig into the story. I could be their pirate’s treasure.
From now on I will conjure that image when my fears attempt to stop my progress.
Press on fellow writers. Press on.