Sunday, November 9, 2014

Savoring Life

I really prefer to write short stories or novellas, rather than the longer, more involving novel form. I know what I want to say, I like to keep the reader involved and contributing to the story, and I believe the shorter forms demand more reader participation. That seems to be a characteristic of everything I have done, or do. I want to do what I want or need to do, and then get on to the next thing.

Take eating, for instance. Where did I learn to eat? I hardly know sometimes what it is I’m eating. I was told that as a baby I was always hungry, and that seems not to have changed, except that instead of feeling hungry, I simply attack my food with such intensity that five minutes after I’ve eaten the last bite I have forgotten what I’ve had. I know that I appreciate what tastes good and what doesn’t, and I can genuinely praise the work that resulted in what was prepared, but to recall it later, is often beyond me.

I read the same way. When I sit down with a book or a magazine (we don’t get daily papers here), I want to finish the story and get on. If the lede is too long, if the story has too much information, I want to skip and get to the end, find the writer’s conclusion, agree or disagree and turn the page.

Writing is like that, too. I begin every story with the end in mind. I know what I want to say, what I want to tell, and the reward comes from discovering how to get from first word to last. And it doesn’t take long for me to want to get there. And of course, the story doesn’t always end up where I thought it would. Characters and their lives often takeover a story and make it their own, still ending up where I wanted to go, but not always. Sometimes the story comes alive in ways I hadn’t anticipated, going where I had not thought I was headed, becoming something more than what I had in mind. There is great pleasure in that, too.

There is great pleasure in all of these things: eating, reading, writing. I just don’t think I’m getting the full measure of satisfaction and pleasure out of any of them.

I don’t savor the moment, or the words, the writing or the food. I know when it tastes good or doesn’t, when a writer’s work excites me or stimulates me or frustrates or angers or bores me. I feel the pleasure a well written line or page or book can bring, but it is fleeting.

There is a big difference between liking and savoring. The difficulty is that after all these years, while I can recognize what’s lacking, I haven’t yet learned how to correct it; to enjoy the things I like.

I need to savor life.

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