Sometimes the contents of my refrigerator stresses me out. I lie in bed at night thinking, “oh god, all that spinach is getting old. I’d better make a quiche ASAP.” Or, “oh no, I thawed out that ground beef yesterday… I have to use it tomorrow!” I hate waste, so anything perishable makes me nervous. I base my lunches not on what I particularly want to eat, but on what needs to be eaten before it goes bad.
Similarly, I get stressed out sometimes about all the books I “need” to read. Since I’m part of a literary community, friends and acquaintances have new books out that I want to read to support them. For example, Joseph Boyden’s recent The Orenda, Lish McBride’s Firebug, Tawni Waters’s Siren Song, and Kevin Fortuna’s The Dunning Man.
There’s also all the books people have recommended to me, classics I have shamefully never read, new releases I should read to see what’s going on in the publishing world, recent blogs and articles, and the books I need to read for book club.
Right now I’ve got a towering stack of books on my desk, and it’s sort of stressing me out. But Eva, you might say, books don’t go bad like vegetables do. But you would be wrong. Many of these books are from the library. I had to wait for a long time on a hold list to get them, and I’m not allowed to renew them. Besides, I worry about running into a friend and not having read his/her book yet. Or that by the time I get around to reading the new releases they won’t be new releases anymore, and I still won’t know what’s up in the publishing world.
Unfortunately, I can’t just toss all the books into a bowl with some eggs and cheese and make a quiche, which is what I do when I have a bunch of vegetables that need to be eaten.
Instead I have to remind myself to enjoy reading whatever book it is I’m reading at the moment. Don’t worry so much about the stack of “need-to-reads.” And I have to tell myself that it’s okay to abandon a book. If I’ve given it a fair shot — 20 pages, the first chapter or two — and I really don’t want to continue reading it (for whatever reason), why force myself? There are a million other books I could be reading instead.
Same goes for my writing. Sometimes I get stressed about all the books and stories I want to write, all the ideas I’ve tucked away for later. I feel the same anxiety I do about the vegetables and the library books. I’ve got to write them all now!
But the great thing about ideas is that they never spoil. In fact, they might get better over time, the longer I let them percolate.
The point is, I should chill out. Because there’s always going to be food in my refrigerator that needs to be eaten. That’s unavoidable unless I stop buying fresh produce (which I won’t). And there will always be a pile of books for me to read.
I’m lucky enough to have fresh food in my fridge and a stack of books on my desk. I’m lucky enough to have a notebook full of ideas for future novels. I get to eat and read and write. This is not something to stress about. It’s something to be thankful for. The food will get eaten (or most of it anyway). Some of the books will be read (and some won’t). And I will write as many books as I can in this lifetime that I have. The important thing is that I enjoy what I’m eating, reading, or writing in the moment and not worry so much about what’s next on the plate.