2012 in Review
I’m so happy Stuart and I started this blog. Looking back, I can see how much this project has changed the way I approach books and reading. When I was in college, I did a shamefully small amount of recreational reading. This blog challenged me to make time for the thing I’ve loved to do my entire life: read books I’m interested in reading. Because I tried to review fairly regularly, not only did I get to return to some of my favorite books, I also read novels that had been sitting on my shelf for years, untouched, as well as pick up books that I’d always wanted read but never got around to. I read books I loved, books I hated, and books that made me go “eh.” I just read. That’s the most important part: I finally got back to reading.
Because I knew I would reviewing almost every book I picked up, I also approached reading them in a new way. I’ve always been one to mark passages that I like, but I was also searching for the skill of the writing, the character development, plot points, and the overall merit of the book: things I’d always stored away subconsciously but rarely voiced. Writing this blog has made me a more thoughtful reader and has provided me with a deeper reading experience. Also, because I spent my final semester of college ensconced in my playwriting thesis, I rediscovered then and now how important it is for a writer to read. Not only does it allow you to experience other writers’ voices, but it helps you to find your own.
I can’t wait to keep up these experiences in 2013. I’ve got a few reviews waiting in the wings of the blog already, and I just went to the library and picked up a few new books to get me through the slow season at work. My goal is to read some more classics. I will admit that it probably won’t be many; I dislike classics in general. However, I would like to have a deeper knowledge of literature, and reading some earlier books certainly wouldn’t hurt. I also want to branch out into other genres, both within my usual area of YA and outside of it.
I also want to write more. I did quite a bit of writing in the first half of 2012 simply because I took a poetry and fiction writing class, and of course, my thesis was writing a play. I also had a very fruitful summer, writing-wise. I also had a play of mine selected for production. But in dealing with some issues that began in September or so, I really petered out. I started to write a play and put it aside as I tried to do NaNoWriMo for the fifth year running. For the first time since 2008, I failed to pen 50,000 words in November because I just couldn’t make myself write; now I’ve lost the momentum on my play. But I’m itching to get started on another serious writing project, so hopefully the juices will be flowing again soon.
My big resolution for 2013 is to be kinder to myself: to allow myself to make mistakes without beating myself up over them. That goes for this blog. Contributing to it is important and helpful to me, but from now on, I won’t feel guilty if I go a few weeks without a post, or if I’m reading more slowly than usual. I’m going to take things as they come and perform to the best of my ability, as a reader, a blogger, a writer, and a human being.
Like Rachel, I am delighted that the two of us started this blog. In college, I spent the vast majority of my time engrossed in my studies and research in physics, making little time for pleasure reading (or much reading at all outside physics and astronomy, much to the chagrin of my literature and history professors). When the two of us decided to start this blog, I was excited because I knew I would force myself to take more time to read for myself, for pleasure, something I missed immensely.
What I did not expect was the way this would change me as a reader. I have always read critically—that’s something I try to do so every time I pick up a book. But at the end of it, I would put it down and move on to something else. Working up a review after reading a book has made me take the time to piece together my thoughts, to assemble an image of the work as a whole, to form my opinions from a thorough analysis. Instead of just drawing on my personal engrossment and final catharsis, I became a reader engaged after the book was finished and back on the shelf. Which, for me, has been good.
As a writer, I have changed dramatically. When this blog started, I was stuck in a horrendous muck of writer’s block. Reading again and being more engaged in that reading helped to dredge me up from that ditch and put me on the path to writing again. I then found that being more focused and thoughtfully involved as a reader has caused me to pay attention to details of character development, dialogue, conflict, imagery, and other such stuff which composes a work of literature. While in the past I have drawn on “good” literature to help myself learn and grow as a writer, this scrutiny has helped me to truly grow as a writer as I began to focus on these details in my own work.
That being said, I also took the time to glean some really good ideas from the better pieces I reviewed for the blog, such as Stoppard’s Arcadia, Frayn’s Copenhagen, and Glück’s Ararat, and have started to mull them over in my head before putting into writing some of my own reflections on issues such as the nature of time and reality, the role of knowledge in life, the context of the individual within the whole of society.
This last point has forced me to consider something crucial to my identity as a writer: my audience (I am reminded of the rhetorical triangle that many of us have encountered in our experience as young writers). Yes, I am only one voice in seven billion. But if I am to make that voice heard, to make it powerful and affective, I must understand that I am not one just one voice in an endless cacophony of noise: my writing can reach people. And while I am not published and barely make enough time for this blog, I find myself challenged and inspired by the question David Mitchell asks at the end of Cloud Atlas:
“Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”
With that in mind, I have begun efforts to produce a play that I wrote (and revised maybe a dozen times—writing is rewriting!) and am finishing revisions of several of my better poems to submit for publication in literary magazines. I’ve come to realize, through my experiences with Ambidexteri this year, that writing can make a difference. And it is my hope and vision to share my written voice as drop in the sea of voices, even if only to better a few and not the entire ocean.