The Curse of Knowledge

I used to love to read.

In grade school, reading was my preferred recess activity, far above four square, jumping rope, and doing flips on the jungle gym. By high school, I must have scaled up to a good four or five hours a day spent cracking open a book and just blissing out. I considered it more than a hobby; it was part of who I was.

But lately reading has become a rarer activity for me. And it's easy to figure out why.

I know too much.

I've spent years thinking about, talking about, and analyzing the craft of storytelling from every possible angle. I can recount well-thought-out opinions about plot, character, scene, and structure. About beginnings and middles and ends. I can illustrate with examples from television, movies, and books. And I can make you believe me, because frankly, I know what I'm talking about.

And when I pick up a book, even if it's just for fun, I can't shut off that knowledge. If a character is flat or a scene is emotionally blah, I can't help but notice. If the plot is a little hinky or predictable, I'll notice that too.

And I guess, overall, I'm glad. Because it means I've learned a lot. But it does make reading a lot less fun. These days I bliss out on one in ten books, or maybe one in twenty. The rest... well, I enjoy them, but always from a rather clinical perspective.

I'm reminded of a anecdote from the very funny book The Last Catholic in America. The young narrator decides to give up, for Lent, a habit dearer to him than life itself: thumb sucking. Oh, how he loves to suck his thumb! Yet for forty long days he resists temptation. At last Easter arrives, and he can indulge to his heart's delight.

But tragedy strikes. After a month of no thumb sucking, he discovers he simply doesn't like it anymore. I'll never forget the last line of that chapter:

By winning, I had lost.

8 Totally Random Things I Like, or Don't

I don't like:
  • Drying off after showers
  • Pushing grocery buggies
  • Taking out my contacts
  • The smell of clams
I like:
  • Taking my socks off in bed
  • Buttering toast
  • Chopping veggies
  • The smell of garages
How about you?

The Buddy System Continues

Well, the first two weeks of my Buddy Pact with Becky are over, and so far it seems to be a success. Neither Becky nor I have missed a deadline. Which is good, especially since she as a real-life deadline looming and I have a desperate desire to get my book in the mail. Three cheers all around.

But, frankly, it's been hell. There's been very little blogging for me over the past few weeks, because all my time was taken up with worrying, snacking, playing online games, asking Mark how I got myself into this mess--in short, procrastination.

Come the last few days of each week, I managed to kick myself into high gear and work from sun-up to sun-down to avoid losing my precious $50. Does anyone else have this problem: you're capable of Herculean effort, but for some reason not ordinary effort?

It's like, I have to keep reminding myself, "Hey, Jane, this is something you chose to do. It's not, like, something you have to get through. It's your life's work, for crying out loud!"

But everybody's life's work has parts that are pure joy and parts that are, well, pure work. I guess I'm in a pure work place right now.

Now, sending it off? That'll be pure joy.

OMG Star Trek OMG

What can I say about the new Star Trek movie? I mean, what CAN I say about the new Star Trek movie? Because the last thing I would want to say is anything that might spoil it for anyone.

So I will simply try out a new maxim I've been floating around in my head for a while:

Story is about change. Character is about constancy.

Whoever wrote the new Star Trek movie Gets It. Which is why, despite any of its charming imperfections, we hard-core Trekkies love it.

Five Things My Mom Does Better Than Anybody Else

  1. Make lasanga
  2. Plan birthday parties
  3. Fix disasters
  4. Scrapbook
  5. Love me
Happy Mother's Day, Mom! I love you!

Buddy Buddy

Of all the things that are hard about being a writer, cultivating discipline is probably the hardest. I've been struggling with it for years, for what feels like my whole life. And I don't think I'm alone. Other people struggle with it too.

A couple of years back, when I was looking for a house, my Realtor mentioned the program she had developed to deal with her occasional lapses of discipline. She had a buddy system with another Realtor, and they would give one another weekly assignments. Her buddy might tell her that her job for the week was to get two new clients, or fix up her office, or catch up with her filing, or whatever. And if one of them failed to complete her assignment, she would pay a penalty.

"If she doesn't do her assignment, she has to pay me a hundred bucks," my Realtor explained. "And me... well, I'm also motivated by money. But in smaller amounts. So if I don't complete my assignment, I have to give her twenty bucks."

Hmm... ok. So, let's set aside for the moment the fact that my Realtor was obviously running quite the racket on her "buddy." It still seems like a good idea. And since I heard about it, I've been looking, casual-like, for a buddy of my very own.

And I've finally got one. I brought up the system to my friend Becky the other night, and she agreed to buddy up. She has a dissertation; I have a book. We both want to get done. We're designing our own assignments for the moment, since we don't know all that much about one another's processes, but I think that should be ok. And we have equitable penalties -- fifty bucks apiece.

So, it's on. Ten pages for her, three edited scenes for me: all by Sunday morning. I feel pretty confident about getting there because... uh, yeah, fifty bucks. Which means it may not be long until my book is packed into on envelope on its way to New York.