Today I started listening to Michael Pollan’s new book “Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World. Michael Pollan is the first author that I have experienced as a book author, a narrator of his audio book on Audible and also on a series of documentaries about plants that have conquered the world “The Botany of Desire” and a series of documentaries about the way cooking changed the world in modern times.
I’m sure there are other people, but for me Michael Pollan was the first author to do that idea triathlon of written book, audio book, and TV series/video book.
Shaun T would have been the first if I had read his book instead of listening to the Audible version of T for Transformation.
Sometimes I wonder if the writers of today are like the philosophers of Greece or if there is a distinction.
Certainly journalists remind me more of historians, and comedy writers of entertainers. But I don’t know the role of the average writer, are we story tellers or are we philosophers or both, can the two be separated?
I don’t know, but I do know that I have always loved books and enjoyed reading and it feels like a natural process to be a writer as well.
To me it feels like our souls eat ideas and desire more and when we digest what we have eaten we write or dance or do something to output the idea we have processed internally. It feels like all art is the same process of finding the path of creativity that we have the least resistance to in response to the inspiration of a world of ideas either from the natural world, the modern world, or in response to the ideas of others.
I find that I write more easily if I haven’t been reading, but I can also write if I have been reading.
I just feel a bit more grounded in my own ideas after some mental and physical solitude. I enjoy reading, but I can take long breaks without reading as well and kind of listen to the symphony of silence.
In such a loud, busy world, silence can be welcome, at least to me as an introvert.
It’s funny that it depends on if it is expected or unexpected, if I want silence and get it, I may not like it, what matters more if I expected to have it or didn’t expect to have it. At night if something disturbs the silence, I may or may not appreciate it. I remember a tuba player decided to suddenly play a song near by at 4AM on a Thursday one night and I was very amused by the event, it was very well played and kind of interesting. Before it happened I would have guessed that I wouldn’t have liked it, but when it happened I actually found it a bit interesting and it was nice to know the world was more magical than all the things I imagined were probably going to happen. My husband usually doesn’t take both kids, one weekend afternoon he did, it was unexpectedly quiet, I would have thought I would love that, but I didn’t that time.
If anything still interests me about life, the most interesting thing is how wrong I am about myself.
I’ve been watching some cool history series lately, Mankind The Story of All of Us, and some about neanderthals (the relatives we don’t invite to dinner – just a joke) and sure there is a ton I didn’t know, but it doesn’t surprise me since I was never a history major or enthusiast, but what surprises me more is how I continue to not know about myself, not only my past, but my present.
So I wonder about what I am as a writer as a human and if I could become like Michael Pollan, if he is the future of what authors are to be (someone who can write, narrate, or film a series that explains his findings). Or if there are authors who are too introverted to live that way? I don’t have any pressure right now to find that answer, but as more authors run retreats (Rachel Macy Stafford) or sell out venues to talk (Mark Manson) it makes me wonder if things change that way if I will be able to adjust.
Michael Pollan is such a plant lover, and so am I, it’s very enjoyable to read his writing, the way he both acknowledges plants are not people, yet then proceeds to anthropomorphize plants anyways. Kind of like the movie “The Good Dinosaur” which starts by saying dinosaurs didn’t exist at the same time as people, but then makes a fictional story line where the large asteroid that wiped out the large dinosaurs with climate change (the small ones still live as our birds). There is something adorable about the way Michael Pollan retains the joy and wonder of a child, yet has the writing and research skills of an adult. His curiosity of things I’m wasn’t curious about is a bit contagious. I’ll never look at another apple without thinking of Kazakhstan. I like his writing, but the main reason I read his books is because my sister buys them. She has a strength called “ideation” (from the Clifton Strength Finder System) which means connecting dots between very different ideas.
It’s a cool skill, many times when different scientist work together they solve problems they couldn’t solve alone due to a lack of perspective. Like with the age of the world, Clair Patterson, a geochemist who pinpointed Earth’s age for the first time who needed to first isolate the lead contamination from gasoline pollution potentially poisoning children and adults. Or the periodic table of elements, made by Dimitri Mendeleev, that was defiantly connecting a lot of dots where other people had never seen them before.
I don’t share that skill of “ideation” or making new connections between ideas to the extent my sister does. But we do share a lot of strengths, we share “restoration” wanting to run towards problems and find solutions for them, we share “intellection” liking to think.
I wonder if we enjoy reading from authors with the same strengths that we have? I don’t know. I know that I have read books that I thought were the key to a good life and worth their weight in gold and when my father or sister (both avid readers) pick up the book they can’t bear to read it. If it was my husband I would just think, he doesn’t care to read. But with my dad and sister they will have read 10 other books, but can’t bear to read the ones that I thoroughly enjoyed.
I also don’t like reading my dad’s books, I did as a child, because any book was better than nothing and there were not ebooks. My dad’s favorite book’s plot line was, “cool, but everyday down to earth cop, solves murder and is cool, develops a relationship with an attractive female, but it doesn’t work out because she dies.” I would love to read any other variation of that story, like “nerdy cop solves murder” or “uptight, upper class cop solves murder,” or “gay cop solves murder and marries male love interest” or “female cop solves murder before cool, everyday down to earth male cop can,” or “cop tries and can’t solve murder” or “cop solvers murder, wins girl, but then goes through marital problems, and resolves them into a normal marriage.” I wonder if my dad would like any of the other variations? I would find them hilarious.
I guess my books can be kind of the same story as well. I like Scifi and fantasy, but many of my favorite books can be summed up as “true love conquers all” in a space or made up environment, and violence on the part of the heroes solves almost all problems, whichever problems it doesn’t solve are solved by being super smart, all problems get solved.
My sister has the most diverse taste in books of anyone I’ve ever met, she reads everything we read, but much more.
So as I read Michael Pollan’s new book, I’m enjoying his ideas, his voice, he is a captivating story teller, but I’m a little uneasy that I don’t know if he will present me information that will try to convince me to stop drinking coffee, which I love.
I have stopped when I was pregnant, twice, and those were some of the worst months of my life. Possibly because I was pregnant and I have the extra vomit kind of pregnancy that most people will never fully understand unless they saw it or had it.
I’m at once open minded about living without coffee, because I enjoy being control of what I put in my body, and also terrified I will come across some reason that makes sense to stop drinking coffee.
I also have a coffee plant, so if the problem becomes environmental I can perhaps grow my own coffee. I used to grow my own green tea until my tea plant dried out and died.
Most likely I will just enjoy the book and keep drinking a 12 pack of coffee a week, but there is a small fear any time I read something about something I enjoy consuming that there will be valid evidence that puts what I want with what I think is healthy into a civil war with one another.
I’m surprised that having written only 1 book, just an ebook, just for my daughter, last week, that now I am already having fears about what something that lies about 14 years further on a writing journey may possibly hold, but I guess I am.
I can’t thank you guys enough, for sharing your thoughts and encouragement with me since September last year, the feedback has been helpful and I hope to be transitioning into more cohesive and more challenging this year that I wouldn’t have the courage to be thinking about if not for all the kindness and also inspiration from reading many of the writing from you guys. Thank you so much. I would say happy spring, but some people are in winter, happy beginning of 2020! 🌸