By V. Jolene Miller
Reading on the Run
Binge reading on the run because everything else can wait.
ABOUT THE COLUMNIST:
In Alaska, I’m a behavioral health instructor by day and a Ph.D. student by night. When I’m not teaching, I have my nose in a textbook or a scholarly article. These days, my writing is nonfiction and my puppy, Omar, is lucky if I can spare ten minutes to play fetch. I still carry a book in my purse because I hope to get a few minutes to read. Fifteen minutes before dawn, in between assignments, or right before falling into bed. Reading is my resting place.
During the writing process, authors incorporate transitions to bridge the gap between paragraphs, character dialogue, chapters, time sequence, events, and scenes during the writing process. Transitions are necessary to move the story forward; linking the events from beginning to end. If they’re done well, they create a narrative path for the reader to walk along, immersed in the magical happenings as they unfold. Likewise, when bridges are made well, people can traverse from one side to the other – typically, across bodies of water.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like bridges. Their height boggles my brain, and I worry about falling off or over the sides of them. Their length can make me dizzy with apprehension, and I worry about them falling down or crumbling beneath me. Oftentimes, I find myself holding my breath or gripping the arm rest on the car door until my knuckles are white, and we’re safely across. The great thing about book transitions and bridges is that they can lead us to something new, maybe even something unexpected or exciting.
Last semester, my graduate school coursework could have used a bridge, and maybe a sign to indicate the transition to actively working on the dissertation phase of things. Previously, I’d spent a year feverishly cranking out coursework assignments. The rapid pace had me reading and writing faster than my NaNoWriMo days when I managed 10,000-word days to write novels. Switching to writing a research outline and a literature review made my head spin. Someone had clearly changed the rules and failed to inform me.
The experience was unsettling and further exacerbated after a more thorough review of my degree completion plan and a consult with one of my professors. Apparently, I had miscalculated and was smack dab in the middle of the bridge of the program! Instead of having eight months before starting the actual dissertation, I only had four months to go. I wasn’t ready! Talk about the bridge crumbling beneath me. I wasn’t ready!
As I took some steadying breaths and began to find my footing, I stood on my toes (metaphorically speaking) to get an idea of what lay ahead. There, in the (much closer) distance, I saw something I hadn’t seen in a while. I saw my creative self.
She was a bit rough around the edges–a Ph.D. program will do that to a person–but otherwise in decent shape. In her arms, she held a bundle of assorted things. That novel she was supposed to publish in winter of 2020, the collection of stories she had drafted with that writing group she lost touch with, and some shiny new ideas – the tiniest of gems that still need to be explored. There’s still a dissertation to write. For that, she is grateful because she’s uncertain what her post-Ph.D. life will look like.
Will a renewed creative writing period begin? Perhaps, an item in the bundle I saw will become a completed project? Or, perhaps not. Maybe a different writing life will emerge from beneath the mound of scholarly articles I’ve been reading. No one knows.
Given the global events of the last two years, aren’t we all tentatively hopeful for something bright, shiny, and, dare I say, healthy? I know I am. Yet, our steps may be timid as we re-experience moments of trauma and despair that have bared its teeth at us time and again, dashing away our tender hopes.
I encourage you to look ahead. Gaze into this new year, maybe even into the new you, and forge ahead. Explore the new and embrace what lies ahead. I realize it could be that we aren’t quite sure who we are anymore and even less sure what our “new normal” will turn into, so grip the armrest as necessary. It’s okay to feel afraid. Take a deep breath, and feel the strength of the bridge beneath you. Turn the page in that new story, or reread an old one. Because, one thing I know for sure, books will be there. Comforting old ones or new authors and tales we’ve not yet experienced – whatever form they may take, may they be the bridge that welcomes us into a new season.
Article originally Published in the February / March 2022 Issue: New & Upcoming.