An aspiring writer fascinated by what we simply are.
In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed—a class of labourers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases capital. These labourers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.
— Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto
I finished Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury tonight and I’m convinced that it’s the greatest book on writing I have ever read (except perhaps for On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King but that may only be because I read it first).
It has been a long time since I felt so enthusiastic about writing and so willing to try again, to fail, and to have some damned fun with it. I remembered how it felt when I first started to write and how I felt when a few publications accepted my work. It has been a long time since I wanted to feel exactly that again.
I’m picking up The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx next. It’s another short one. I won’t reach my reading goal by far this year but I’d like to be well of halfway there come December 31st. I’ll probably read Ethics by Baruch Spinoza. It’s less than 200 pages long.
Did I mention that we won a painting from the Octopus Initiative this month? The program is awesome. The way it works is you log into their website every month and select which paintings you like. If you win, you get to take the piece home and keep it for up to 10 months.
Today we went to pick it up, and I did my best to enjoy being out of the house. I’ve been spending too many weekends cooped up and though I’d love to go on being cooped up I have a feeling it’s not the healthiest way to spend my winter. The weekends are my best chance to see the sun and remember there is more than work, and sleep, and darkness.
It doesn’t feel very much like a Friday. Getting up was very hard this morning. So hard I almost opted to spend the day in bed. I’ve decided I get one day a month to do nothing when I should be doing something but November’s mental health day has already passed.
So, I went in, and then worked much more than I wanted to. We moved around office furniture and I ate lunch at a desk. At least we ordered out and at least I got to eat with the best coworkers around. And now I’ve been left to work alone. I sound like I hate it but I’m flattered by the opportunity to play boss.
Looking back on the day I’m grateful for a job where I can get up and move, where I get to be with my friends and laugh, where I have a team and where I know I’m wanted and doing well. I don’t think most people have that.
It has been a good week for reading. I finished Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert M. Sapolsky on Sunday, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller this morning, started Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, and made slow progress through Moral Letters to Lucilius: Volume 1 by Seneca nearly every day.
It feels good to spend so much time with books again, but I’m also disappointed and perplexed in my inability to keep up the habit given how much I enjoy it. Why am I like this? People are weird and I guess I am no exception.
Today was a good reading day. I finally made it through The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, but I still have to make it through Notes from Underground and the “Other Stories“.
I purchased and began my very first audiobook today as well, Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin. My sisters and my mom all “read” by audiobook and have been trying for a long time to convince me of the method’s virtues, but I know myself and my comprehension cliff dives whenever I am listening to rather than reading words. Hell, I can’t even read well from a screen! Old fashioned ink on paper is the only way for me, I guess.
But! Times are changing and I’m watching the stats of other readers climb to numbers that I know I just cannot attain through traditional means. Plus, Google offered me $5 toward a purchase so I thought, why not give it a try? Perhaps practice is all I need.
I’m enjoying how quickly I can move through “reading” by simply listening, but my habit of reading with a pencil has become another hindrance as well. With audio, I cannot mark the margins, insert my opinion, underline, or argue with the author! I cannot move through a book smoothly without being able to get my thoughts out along the way.
So, I’ve already decided that when I finish I will simply have to buy a physical copy and read it again.
I’ve been criticized for buying the books I read rather than borrowing them, but despite all the good reasons why, this last book reminded me why not.
I have developed a habit of reading with a pencil, writing in the margins, and, as it feels to me, reading each book as a conversation between the author and me. I read by writing out my own thoughts too.
I borrowed Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge from my little sister last week and since it wasn’t mine, I couldn’t read it with a pencil the way I normally do. Well, it turns out that the habit had become absolutely crucial to my comprehension. It turns out not being able to write, argue, or think in the margins made it impossible for me to engage with the material on a deeper level.
Worse yet, I would read something that stuck in my mind and not being able to store it anywhere I could not move past it. I had to resort to taking pictures with my phone and writing notes on scraps of paper just to refocus my attention.
I’m happy to be done with that book and on to reading a book that belongs to me again, this time Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I have my pencil sharpened and look forward to communing with the past again.