“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” ~ Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison once expressed that the secret to any great novel is romance and mystery. Think of your favorite books. You know, the ones that kept you late into the night, racing through the pages into the wee hours of the morning where only the questioning look of a spouse lying next to you or the dog scratching at the door could bring you back down to reality. The types of stories that could turn the librarian in us by day into the starved addict by night, looking for the next high. Every once in a while we encounter a character or a heroine who reminds us that reading is like lightning and when it strikes it can shake our entire world.
We love reading for that very reason: it has the ability to transport us. Reading allows us to experience different times, countries, and worlds that we could not experience otherwise. I can remember the first time I read Pride and Prejudice, I was thirteen and had the hope that all relationships would involve English country dances and witty banter with handsome, brooding strangers. Similarly, I can also remember when this world view was turned on its head and my definition of love evolved. Every year when it snows, I take a train with Anna Karenina and my heart breaks just a little bit more in the way it does when I witness a sunset where I am reminded of the beauty of life in its brevity and randomness. I did not want to journey into The Bell Jar, but like my twenties, Sylvia Plath was a necessary right of passage , which helped to instill in me the makings of a Stronger Woman.
There is a reason why some stories resonate with us and others do not. We almost like a book more when it has the ability to surprise, shock, or even at times offend us because we not only read to find our story mirrored within someone else; we also read, because deep down there are questions within us yearning to be answered. As a writer, my entire day consists of asking questions. The what if’s and the why’s are where any good story first begins before the ink ever hits the page. In life and in my writings, I have learned that there are no questions not worth asking. The questions can be as minute as why might my character hate the sound of firecrackers on the Fourth of July to as complex as the reason for adultery. Why do people cheat? Did a marriage of love and friendship simply lose its magic and mystery or worse was there no definitive reason at all?
The human race is awful in all definitions of the word. People can be fascinating in their complexity , as well as crappy in how they treat one another. When we read, we do not always get the answers we seek. However, we begin to chip away, little by little, life’s big mysteries and that almost seems to matter more. We sleep better at night with just that little knot of hope and fire in our bellies. Our lives run like clock ward around house, husband, kids, family, and work. There is predictability but there is also Scarlett O’Hare and her promise of, “Tomorrow is another day…”
So go out today and find love in a bookstore, a new recipe, or sing along loud and proud to that song on the radio. Enjoy life. Live, Love, Repeat. Then come back with all of your new knowledge. Now go write!