Friday, April 16, 2010


A few weeks ago, after roasting fourteen pounds of potatoes, I sat down to a Passover seder. In usual tradition, we went around the table reading from the haggadah. The leader explained the meaning of the items on the seder plate. The youngest, an eighteen year old, sang the four questions. People of all ages munched on olives and celery sticks, carrots and pickles, as we waded through the holiday rituals.

Somewhere along the way I stopped paying attention to Moses and Pharoh. You see, I was too busy line editing the haggadah. The story of the four sons? Yeah, this could be tightened and shortened. A little less forced drama might also help pull the reader in when discussing the plagues. Show, don’t tell. I knew I was in a bad place when I felt the urge to reach for a pen and jot notes in the margins.

“Paige, how about your recite the motzi?” the leader asked.

“Oh, sure,” I answered as I glanced at my neighbor’s book to confirm the page number, ten higher than where I was editing.

When I was in law school, my newfound knowledge of torts and evidence completely ruined my enjoyment of shows like The Practice and Law and Order. Oh please, no judge would ever permit that kind of rambling rant while interrogating a witness. And that attorney’s whore length skirt? Yeah, nice try counselor. Well, it seems pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing has momentarily ruined the joy of reading. Or at least reading subpar writing.

This might not sound like much of an issue. I mean, who wants to read subpar writing anyway? Except when my brain hurts from working on my thesis, struggling to properly develop a character or generate a worthwhile plot, the last thing I want to read is Faulkner or The New Yorker. What I really need is something mindless.

“Read Twilight,” a friend suggested.

“I really liked The Girl with the Tattoo Dragon,” another noted.

The other night, unwilling to accept my current state, I went to Barnes & Noble and roamed the aisles. I plucked books off the shelves, leaned against the wall as I scanned the first few paragraphs. Some choices were definitely better than others. But in the end I walked out empty handed, feeling the same sense of disappointment as when I eat an apple instead of diving into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

When I got home, I poured a glass of wine and settled in on my sofa. There were plenty of magazines piled up in my basket, a collection of unread books stacked on my shelves. Instead, I reached for my latest knitting project. And when I tired of the yarn and needles, I worked on that day’s New York Times Crossword. Just before crawling into bed, I considered breaking back the spine on White Tiger, I wondered if now might be the time to start Divisadero. Instead, I turned off the light, pulled up the covers, and drifted off to sleep.


  1. I've been reading tons of books on my new Kindle (yay!). The Help is amazeballs. Also great are The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, A Gate at the Stairs, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and Juliet, Naked.

  2. "People" magazine, baby. (This is also serving as a comment to your blog post) You need to imbibe of some of lowest form of the written word in order to press on with the difficult work ahead. It's like carb-loading with trashy sweets before that big marathon. Your writing mind can simply luxuriate in the hottub of trashy and vapid writing and emerge refreshed, ready to go and confident in its ability to do so much better than what it just experienced. Writing so bad your brain knows there's no fixing it, so you don't expend any mental energy critiquing it. You'll come back to your own work empowered, infused with a confidence that comes from seeing shit and knowing that your writing is better.