My time at MacDowell taught me a lot about myself and how I work and live. Every few days I'll post a simple lesson I learned in the woods outside Peterborough, NH.
Reading is of greater value to the imagination than is watching a movie, television, or even listening to the radio. I may be preaching to the choir with this one but I think it’s worth reminding ourselves from time to time. Unlike any other form of entertainment, reading is active. It activates the mind. And reading fiction rewards the soul with pleasure and empathy.
I took two books of fiction with me to MacDowell. One was a collection of short stories by John Cheever because I'd remembered loving Cheever when I was in college but hadn't read him in a long time. And I figured a short story would offer me a quick in and out into a world for a break from my own work whenever I needed it.
The other book I took was sort of the opposite. Anna Karenina. I took that because it's a Tolstoy novel I'd not read before and I'd read rave reviews of this new translation. To my surprise, I found myself returning again and again to Tolstoy and only finding Cheever mildly engaging.
Not sure if I've changed or what. But the depth of psychological observation offered in Tolstoy was just what I needed to fuel my own explorations into psychological depths of my own characters.
Thanks, Leo! Sorry, John. :(