Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

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The Reader: Final Thought on Journal of a Novel

the reader
Photo by Ehud Neuhaus on Unsplash

I was going to wax poetic about how wonderfully magical Journal of a Novel was, but the last page summed up the whole book.

“The Reader – Well, by God, Pat, he’s just like me, no stranger at all. He’ll take from my book what he can bring to it. The dull witted will get dullness and the brilliant may find things in my book I didn’t know where there.

And just as he is like me, I hope my book is enough like him so that he may find in it interest and recognition and some beauty as one finds in a friend.”

That’s exactly what happened when I read East of Eden. It’s what happens each time I read any book. That’s what is supposed to happen. A book, especially a novel, isn’t a lesson or a lecture, it’s a version of events. We each bring to the story our own being and when we read it, something magical happens. There’s an interaction, almost a chemical reaction of sorts. Something new is created in us.

And when we share those interpretations with others, combine them with the world we know and the impressions others had while reading those same stories, something even bigger comes of it all. The author’s struggles and efforts to put words together turns out to be more than what he had thought to create.

Life can be lived in much the same way if we allow ourselves to be honest. When we come together to share our stories, we create new ones, if we can keep an open mind and respect the being of those around us.

Hmm… I’m still reading Reflections on a Mountain Lake each morning before my meditation time, and just this morning she was mentioning something similar. Each time I meet a new person, read a new book, or experience some new something, I grow a little bit if I allow myself to be open to the experience and not try to control it, let it be there as it is instead of trying to force it onto a frame of my own construction.

I’m so glad I found this book. It was a beautiful follow-up to East of Eden. As a writer, it gave me so much to relate to. I feel like a part of a community. I’m not alone or completely nuts. I was never a fan of John Steinbeck’s books, but now I feel like we’re friends.

Journal of a Novel: New Read

I almost didn’t write today. I let the world get in and started to sink again. Again, I’ve realized something important, something we all probably see and advise ourselves about over and over again. Do the hard thing first. I need to write first, then go about the rest of my day.

It’s 10:50am. This morning started with great intentions. I read, felt like I had a lot to say but wanted to get my exercise out of the way. That done, I did my morning meditation, journaled, and then thought…I’m too hungry to write now.

During breakfast, I ignored the teaching in my meditation and instead of doing one thing (eat my breakfast) I decided to mulitask and answer a few texts. I got another cup of coffee and thought…I’ll read some of that other book and then write. Sapiens…ugg… I’m giving up on it. Life is too short to be depressed by a human hating history that reads like a textbook of doom. Another DNF on the list and I’ll write more about that later.

NOW I’ll write. I get my laptop from my desk and sit down to tap out words. What was I going to write about? Oh yeah, that other glorious book I started over the weekend. What a beautiful weekend that was! Rain and thunder, the windows all open, nothing to do but read and work on a quilt. But I’ll do that right after I check my email. Nothing there. I’ll check Facebook. There was a quote I wanted to share.

Then a “friend” messaged me. That didn’t go well. I guess I’m not acting like the person he would prefer me to be. I’m good at losing so-called “friends.”

Watch a funny video, click on an ad for stickers, find a cool one with an Oscar Wilde quote.

‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars’ and then find an article about the quote. I’ll read that later.

Maybe I’ll just give up today and head to the grocery store.

And then…hold on. This is ridiculous. What would Steinbeck do?

journal of a novel

That’s actually what I thought. I started reading Journal of a Novel by John Steinbeck over the weekend and it’s filled with some wonderful insight from the man, about his life, his time, and about East of Eden. I’m already halfway through it this morning. And THAT’S what I wanted to write to you about.

I mentioned it when I started reading East of Eden and thought I’d read it while I was reading the novel, as he wrote it. But I couldn’t. I was already trying to finish The Portable Atheist and Reflections on a Mountain Lake. A person can only have so much input at once. I saved it and was soon as I finished the novel, I jumped on that journal like a cat on a laser beam spot.

I’m not regretting it. Reading a highly regarded author’s private thoughts is enlightening in so many ways. And even though I don’t consider myself an author, I do write, and I consider myself a “creative” of sorts. His words are soothing to my soul.

“Perhaps that knowledge is saved for maturity and very few people ever mature. It is enough if they flower and reseed. That is all that nature requires of them. But sometimes in a man or a woman awareness takes place – not very often and always inexplainable. There are no words for it because there is no one ever to tell. This is a secret not kept a secret, but locked in wordlessness. The craft or art of writing is the clumsy attempt to find symbols for the wordlessness. In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable. And sometimes if he is very fortunate and the time is right, a very little of what he is trying to do trickles through – not ever much.”

I should not be so hard on myself. This is no easy task and I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. What is it that I am trying to express? I may simply be trying to express who I am from my own point of view, from inside. Each day I read and think. I journal thoughts. I find the courage and discipline to open the laptop and fill a blank screen. Some days I find the courage to share it. But where is it going?

Nowhere in particular, just like Mr. Toad. And he’s certainly happy, as long as he doesn’t forget his friends.

Tomorrow I’ll be pulling a few more quotes to share with you. If you’re a writer, you might really like Journal of a Novel. He wasn’t writing to share his process or teach anything. They are just letters he wrote to his agent each morning before he got to working on the novel. A sort of “warm-up” exercise. He didn’t write them to publish, but he knew at least a few people would read them. It’s a raw glimpse into the author.

The Reader: Final Thought on Journal of a Novel

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