State of my reading

The State of the Union Address is on right now, so I figured it was a good time to turn the TV off and do some writing. I'm not a huge fan of how such an important part of the democratic process has turned into something resembling a Hollywood award show, with correspondents on the floor of the house and all. I was half expecting the guy reporting for CNN to ask Biden who he was wearing. The whole thing felt a little too much like a Dave Chapelle skit for my taste.  Maybe it's just the curmudgeon in me, but these days I find it better to just read the news story about the Address online, and cut out all the showmanship of the event. I don't want to be that guy who writes a hundred tweets during something like the State Of the Union, only to feel dumb the next day for getting half of the things I said wrong. I'm really fast on the trigger when it comes to tweeting large, public events, and I need to do a better job about thinking about what I'm going to say before I launch an opinion into the world. If you want to see what my writing is like unfiltered, check out my Twitter feed during the Grammys, Emmys, Golden Globes, Oscars, or the upcoming Curling World Championship (also known as the Winter Olympics).

I fully expect there will be commercial breaks in the SOTU within a decade. I can see it now, we will get to the importance of immigration reform... but first, here's a word from Taco Bell, featuring the new Triple-Penetration-Chili-Frito-Midnight-Surprise-Gordita-Crunch! The only thing that could make watching the SOTU Address interesting would be Michelle Obama photobombing the President by dunking on a 20 foot basketball hoop behind him.

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I'm about to start reading Stephen King's brilliant book, On Writing. If you are looking for writing advice, you need to pick up this book. I'm a little bit obsessive when it comes to seeking out writers talking about their process. I've probably read two dozen books about writing, and I can tell you with all certainty that if you pick up On Writing, along with Strunk and White's, The Element's of Style and incorporate their wisdom into your daily work, you will be a much improved writer. King is able to incorporate his own life's narrative into the advice that he gives in the book. He talks about works for him, and is smart enough to know that what works for him is not going to work for everyone. There is no pretension in the way he writes the book. He tells people that most important thing you can do as a writer is to write everyday, read as much and as broadly as possible, and to always be true to yourself.

This will be the first time reading the book that I will also happen to be writing multiple hours a day. The first couple of times I read the book, I was more interested in it for King's story - which is compelling enough on it's own - but now that I am knee deep in my own journey as a writer, I can't wait to tear into the practical advise that King has for all new would-be writers.

Of course the real key to anyone who wants to be a writer, is a universal piece of advise: you have to write everyday. Not every other day. Not every day except for the weekend. Everyday. This is something I've read from dozens of writers. If you really want to be a writer of any kind of value, either to yourself or others, you have to write so often that the act itself is almost involuntary. This is something I'm still struggling with. Although I have to say, after only a month of having a daily routine it's starting to take less-and-less time to draw water from the creative well. As I mentioned yesterday, not everyday has been a piece of cake, but even on the bad days - which have been fewer as of late - there's always something worthy of saving.

I'm trying to think ahead a little bit when it comes to what books I want prioritize in the backlog. I'm not sure if I'm ready for another Murakami novel so soon after finishing The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and to be honest, I kind of want to save some his better works for later in the year. i don't really set goals for myself when it comes to what kinds of books I'm going to read in a year. I tend to read whatever seems interesting in the moment. I was a little bummed out that I read so little nonfiction last year though. I've heard some really good things about The Fifth Beatle, which is a biography of Brian Epstein, the legendary producer of my favorite band. The fact I have not devoted a couple thousand words to my love of The Beatles is surprising. I'm a huge fan of the rock scene in the 1960's: The Beatles, The Rolling Stone's, Dylan, The Beach Boys, Hendrix - it just doesn't get much better than that.

Other books that I own but have not read include:

  • A Heart Breaking Work Of Staggering Genius - David Eggers
  • The Circle - David Eggers
  • Dark Lies The Island - Kevin Barry
  • Telegraph Avenue - Michael Chabon
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz
  • Bleeding Edge - Thomas Pynchon

As you can see, not a lot of nonfiction on that list. If you have any recommendations for a good nonfiction read feel free to leave me a comment.

Happy reading in 2014!