Lightning to Shiitakes

I decided I should try to write a novel. Or maybe just a novella. The fact is, I have no idea what the journey looks like to get there. My familiarity is limited to the destination of others, sentences incandescent, tied together one after another like perfect kernels of corn, popped and needled on a string, collected and bound under the cover of a single shiny jacket. 

It’s as magnificent and difficult as lining up a band of wild Chincoteague ponies by waving a snake charmer’s pungi. I blaze on anyway, blissfully ignorant of the inevitable points of pain, not unlike the raspberries appearing beneath an exercise-jockey’s blue jeans after too many rides, a bloody knot where the strip of cowhide crosses the front of the fibia lying closest to the skin, smarting each leg straddling the barrel at speed. The only thing worse is the alternative: The stitching unravels, the cowhide fluttering to the track, along with the jockey, unceremoniously dumped. 

I’m registering for more writing classes. This year, they have become my theatre tickets. I joke about this, but tickets are recently available for purchase again after sixteen months, and I am feeling the burn. I want both. (Those three words signaling a true capitalist as much as I resist it.) All my writing of late focuses on class and the ultimate goal of marathoning a compelling narrative. Right now, I seem to stare at the same paragraph, reconfiguring it each time, before moving on to the next one, already written, raking its guts as well, like the old game of “Operation.” I squeeze each tiny bone between the tweezers, careful not to touch the buzzer on any side, extracting and relocating them to a different part of the patient’s body, hoping it’s the right fit this time. Writing is a total slog. One step forward and three steps back. At this rate, my goal will take a lifetime.

I have also joined a book club this month. My first one ever. It happened by default, not necessarily by design. It is a sub-group of my challenge network, Section5, the rogue Section4 Sprinters who formed their own community on Slack. (This is Russ’ big joke: “Are you Slacking? You’re such a Slacker.” Etc, etc. The bottom line is “Slacking” has become a verb in our household, more so than even “Googling.” This is total brand dominion, BTW. No one says, “Let me Apple that.”) The fact is, I spend a lot of time on Slack with Section5 and I’m super excited to have a group of smart people with varying backgrounds to discuss a book we have all agreed to read simultaneously.

We finished Adam Grant’s Think Again. He challenges his readers to rethink their own perspectives, questioning where they came from and how, and to view the world and all of its interactions, macro and micro, more with the lens of a scientist than as a preacher, a politician, or a prosecutor. (Sounds like a bar joke, I know.) A few key takeaways: He defines “idea cults” as “oversimplified intellectual Kool-Aid.” It doesn’t matter which side of an issue or argument you stand. We are all guilty of subscribing to our viewpoints without always acknowledging why.

At the end of the book, he touches on “identity foreclosure”—committing to one sense of self without all of the other possibilities being considered and “escalation of commitment”—heroic persistence versus foolish stubbornness. Basically, the dark side of grit. Anyone who knows me will understand why these concepts, and questions surrounding them, appeal to my thinking. Our group is discussing the book tonight.

I’ve started two other books: Hamnet and Aesthetic Intelligence. One is a luxurious read of beautiful script and the other is a personal story of a prolific career in branding. I’m cramming as many books into my minutes as I can, before the prescribed reading and writing that comes with the new class that starts in two weeks. Try as I might, my collection of books still far outweighs my consumption. The pile is proliferating like lightning strikes to shiitakes. Don’t get it? Google it.

2 thoughts on “Lightning to Shiitakes

  1. Well done, Jenn! Beautifully written and very analytical while the aesthetics are so pleasing – love your metaphors in particular.


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