The Sun and The Moon

The Sistine Chapel: Creation of the sun, the moon, the planets.

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It’s Sunday evening.  I’ve been re-reading some middle chapters in my manuscript  —- and editing, does the editing ever ever end?? —- for most the afternoon.  Let’s shut it down and have a glass of wine, shall we.

A friend asked me what I’m reading.  I’m not reading anything, I said.  Nothing, nada, nil.  And that’s the truth.  I tried to start my book club novel, BECOMING MADAME MAO, but after the first few pages I could feel the language, the sentence structures and cadences, boring like a tunnel of bees right into my head.  No, I thought, no no no.  Put it down!  Your memoir is going to sound like Anchee Min!

Writer friends, I know you know what I mean.

I’m being purposefully cautious:  a little Joan Didion before bed, a chapter of Jane Smiley on audio while walking the dogs, some random Margaret Atwood pages (sorry Pegs), and all of James Wright’s poems.  That’s it.  As much as I rant and rail about getting out of the box, the box is exactly where I need to be.  The box has blinders and headphones.  The box keeps me focused on the job at hand.  The box ain’t all that social.  Anchee Min — yikes! — cannot be in my box.

So ….. for now, I’m keeping the lid on.

That said — ahem — real life comes in.  We’re thinking about going to Rome this summer, so there’s that to plan.  I’ve never been to Rome, and now, when I’m not wrapped up in cutting and pasting and typing, all I can think about is The Pantheon and The Colosseum and Vatican City.  So if you’ve got any experience or advice that can help me there, I’m all ears.  Auito!  Per Favore.

What do you read (or absolutely NOT read) while you’re writing?

Rome anyone? 

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29 thoughts on “The Sun and The Moon

  1. Averil Dean

    Oh, Rome! I spent a day there with my mom and my two-week-old daughter once. I would love to go back and see it the right way. I can’t wait to see it through your eyes.

    I know exactly what you mean. I do a lot of comfort reading when I’m writing. Books with an almost non-existent voice are good (Agatha Christie is my go-to), especially when I’ve read them a hundred times already. (Shh, don’t tell Lyra I’m at it again.)

    1. Teri Post author

      Thanks for the shove — I think I’ll start a mystery or thriller tonight. I won’t tell. Shhhhhh…. 😉

  2. amyg

    have you read the relunctant tuscan? its a favorite of mine. not that you need anything to read…

    you’ll know when you’re done editing. (i say this in my wise voice, but what i hear is, “you’ll know when you’re done editing, right?”)

  3. lisahgolden

    Rome! Now I’m going to have to watch A Room with a View and imagine you there.

    When I’m writing, I read whatever comes across my radar, but I understand completely what you’re saying about The Box. You don’t want to be a writer/chameleon.

    The truth is, when I’m really writing, I don’t have much energy to read long pieces of work.

    1. Teri Post author

      You’re so right, Lisa. That’s a big part of it —- when I’m really in writing mode, there’s only so much energy. The rest goes to TV (movies I’ve already seen and reality TV and Mad Men) and sleep. I’m pretty much in bed by 9:00. Very exciting, I am.

  4. jesslahey

    As your Latin teacher friend, who also happens to speak modern Italian, I call on you to email me with any and all questions about Rome, modern or ancient.

    Please tell me you will hit Siena during one of the two Palio. It’s a nuthouse, but it’s magic.

    Rome. It’s hot in summer. But much to love.

    xo

  5. Sarah W

    Lucky!! You must climb the stairs up to the Cupola at St. Peter’s Basilica! I’ve never been there, but my SIL took pictures from there and it was an amazing view!

    And i can’t read Terry Pratchett when I’m writing, or I end up even more slapsticky than usual . . .

    1. Teri Post author

      I’m dying to re-read a William Styron book (you know how a mood strikes) but I know it would just make me think, “Why write if I can’t write like this!!”

      How sad is that.

  6. erikamarks

    Oh, Rome! I was very fortunate to get to travel there with my best friend–we were both 16–my parents were amazing to let us go–but the adventures remain with me. Magic awaits you, my friend. Will this be before or after your writing program adventure??

      1. Teri Post author

        Looking forward to all that magic, Erika!

        And Downith, I’m off to a Yale Writers Workshop for 2 weeks in June. I want to be as finished as I can get on my own before I get there for the “professional help.” 😉

  7. girl in the hat

    Maybe that’s why I can’t seem to start or finish books lately. I have been re-reading old favorites (took George Saunder’s Pastoralia on vacation, an old friend) perhaps because the second (and third) time I read things, I can see beyond the shimmery veil into the inner workings, and that’s what I need when I’m writing– not distraction of shiny objects, but the example of good posture/bones.

    Roma! I’m so jealous. I went there alone when I was 18 but it’s all a blur, now. I hope you will tell us all about it.

    1. Teri Post author

      I totally get this, Anna. So fickle about the reading when the writing is going well. Or, well, at least when it’s really going. In fact, the minute I start reading all I do is daydream about sentences I need to fix or holes to fill in or new pieces to add to my book. So I must say, in that way, my non-reading reading is so helpful.

  8. CJ

    We stayed near the Piazza Navona. On the drive in from the airport passed an obelisk, an ancient crumbling wreck of wall and a glassy high tech tower. Standing in the middle of the Pantheon it’s possible to believe in anything. I love Rome. And
    if you are a coffee drinker–oh my god.

  9. Downith

    Rome – sigh. How wonderful. I backpacked through Europe in the mid 80s – yes to Sarah’s suggestion of climbing to cupola at St Peter’s, Sistine Chapel,etc and the Coliseum…

    And yes, Sienna…

    1. Teri Post author

      My only regret (if it’s possible to have one) is that it’ll be summer. I’m usually a fan of European travel in late fall — like Novemer! — when all the tourists are gone and it’s not so hot.

      We’ll only be there for a few days, so I want to make sure I see what I need to see!! (I’m sure 2 weeks wouldn’t even be enough)

  10. Lyra

    When doing the first draft, I have very little reading time (I say this as if I have so many first drafts scattered about), so I am ridiculous. I read only literature, and it has to come recommended. This is not the time to be adventurous for me.
    For edits, I’ve been reading anything and everything, but find that when I submerge it greatness (Colm Toibin, my love) it helps by comparison giving me the right questions. It has to be similar though to what I’m attempting. I adored The Tiger’s Wife, but found myself tempted to do things (add surrealistic elements) that are wonderful but not who I am as a writer (nor something I could pull off.
    I do avoid anything too close to topic so as not to gwt confused

    1. Lyra

      GAH! This damn phone.
      …so as not to get confused.
      Hunger Games had me a biit too plot/action happy so that wasn’t the best to read in hindsight. I’m starting Didion’s The White Album today. Just because.
      All in all I don’t know how much it matters.
      We show up. We put in the work. We hope for the best.
      We turn out something better than we would have in a vacuum.

      Room in your suitcase for one more?

    2. Teri Post author

      I’ve realized I can’t read the great memoirs — like the Mary Karr stuff — while I’m writing. I start believing I can’t write like her (well, DUH!) and get too discouraged.

      But that’s why the Joan Didion essays, and a few Pegs Atwood here and there — those are the voices I want in my head, just not too much of them, you know?

  11. macdougalstreetbaby

    To know one’s boundaries is to have achieved greatness. How smart of you to put the lid on it. I can imagine this simple act will help you in more ways than one.
    I’ve never been to Italy but I hear it’s breathtaking. The wine selection, alone, will make the trip worthwhile.

    1. Teri Post author

      I now see what writers mean when they say they need to work on their book everyday, in one way or another, whether it’s for an hour or a whole day — it helps keep the voice steady, the pistons firing in the right spots.

      1. LauraMaylene

        I’m just starting a new novel now (ahhh!) and I very much feel I need to work on it nearly every day to keep it in my mind (and so I don’t despair too much and give up). So far I have not changed my reading habits, though. But I do like reading short stories while working on a novel.

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