Wednesday writing wire - fried chicken edition

 

What I'm reading

Whoa, the last time I did one of these was in April, and now it's July. I've read a number of books since then. Indeed, I do feel slightly less pig-ignorant. Go figure!

I will babble at length about just one book, so as not to bore the hell out of the one or fewer people who are possibly ever going to read this. Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David by Lawrence Wright tells how in 1978, President Jimmy Carter brought together the  Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, and over 13 days, persuaded them to sign on to the first peace agreement the modern Middle East had seen, an agreement that still stands today. Author Lawrence Wright delves so deeply into the personalities and characters of the three men (as well as the supporting delegates from all three countries), and conveys so well the intractable problems faced by the region, framed by long history, politics and religion, that you come to understand just how damned difficult it was to get these folks into the same room, let alone convince them to agree even that the sky was blue. Sadat and Begin weren't just from opposing countries and points of view, they were also, personality-wise, as different as two people could possibly be. I can't remember the number of times in the book when either Begin or Sadat was packing his bags, ready to leave, when Carter convinced him to stay. And forget the conventional-wisdom BS about Jimmy Carter being a "meh" president; he comes off like a boss here: tenacious, principled, guided by his religious faith to relentlessly seek some kind of common ground they could all agree to. I listened to the audio version narrated by Mark Bramhall, which was extremely well done and really added to my enjoyment of this book. I will definitely listen to it again, and would highly recommend it. 

What I'm writing

I've been on a roll with the writing this summer. The Neverending Novel may need a new name soon. The Someday It Might Actually End Novel? Well anyway, it has been gathering some momentum. That's a good feeling!

However, this week I've had to take a break to edit a short story. I wasn't really in the mood to switch gears, but there's a deadline involved, so I've shifted my writing brain into different territory. Always a bit jarring at first, but necessary, and (I hope) worth it.

What else I've been doing

OK, I lied. I'm going to babble about a second book. I've become a fan of Japanese decluttering superstar Marie Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

See, I resisted buying this book for a while, thinking why should I buy a physical book on decluttering when my goal is to reduce the amount of stuff in my life? This was reinforced by reading some reviews from people to the effect of "you can get the gist of it from online articles, no need to buy the book". However, I did end up buying the book and confirmed what I'd suspected: there is more to the book than "do these steps in order to declutter your closet". There is some philosophical stuff in there too. In fact that stuff is the important stuff. 

The usual decluttering method involves questions to ask yourself such as: "Is this an item I use regularly? Have I used it in the past year? Am I holding onto this because of an obligation or because it was a gift? Could I get another one easily?" and so forth. The KonMari Method (which doesn't use the word "decluttering" but prefers "tidying") only has one question for you to ask yourself: "Does this item bring me joy?" It brings to mind that quote from William Morris: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." And really, this is a question that can be extrapolated to anything in your life. Why the hell have anything or do anything that does not bring you joy? 

The KonMari Method involves some practices that people have labelled "crazy" or "whacky", like thanking your socks or your purse for their hard work, or saying goodbye and thank you to items that you've decided to give away. I think it actually makes sense if you think about it in a certain way. The usual decluttering  method tends to treat "stuff" as an adversary, to be "dumped". No, I don't literally believe that socks have feelings, but when we've formed attachments to objects, "dumping" them can feel like discarding or repudiating part of ourselves. Discarding things with gratitude and respect, really means respectfully letting go of aspects of ourselves that are of the past and no longer have a place in our present. 

What's inspiring me right now

Nothing earthshaking. Just minorly awesome summertime stuff. This weekend, the hubs and I bought some fried chicken & cole slaw from our fave chicken shack, put it into our old-fashioned pique-nique basket, and went to the lake for a pique-nique. (It's more fun to spell it the French way.)

Oh, and mail. Look at all this glorious mail!

   (One letter was damaged, unfortunately. Looks like something took a bite out of it.)

 (One letter was damaged, unfortunately. Looks like something took a bite out of it.)