Here is a brief list of my current excuses for not writing… “I’m too tired,” “I hate my main character…” “I don’t know how to write fiction,” “I need to watch the O.J. documentary,” and most recently, “I didn’t drink enough PEET’S COFFEE this morning.”
Motivation-wise, summer is the worst time for me (that’s why my sister and I devised our own DIY writing retreat a couple of weeks ago.) It feels like everyone else is on vacation, living the good life, and it’s really hard to stay focused on my pages. I’ve been asking myself, “Could slacking off this summer make me a better writer?”
Here’s the answer I’ve decided on– YES!
I’m not going to stop working on my pages, but I am going to READ. Because I get such pleasure from reading, it feels like slacking off. However, I know that whenever I read for fun, or pick up a book in the genre I’m working in, or read a script that inspires me, my writing gets up-leveled.
Just as in nature, there are fertile and fallow periods for writers. A time when you need to be planting and harvesting, and a time where you need to give that soil a rest, so new crops can grow. Fertilizer, water, these are the things that must percolate deep down into the ground.
For me, reading is fertilizer. Reading is water.
This week, I thought I would offer you some quotes by famous writers about the power of reading…
“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” — Joyce Carol Oates.
“You should never read just for “enjoyment.” Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgmental. More apt to understand your friends’ insane behavior, or better yet, your own. Pick “hard books.” Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. And for god’s sake, don’t let me ever hear you say, “I can’t read fiction. I only have time for the truth.” Fiction is the truth, fool!” — John Waters
“What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.” — Anne Lamott
As writers, reading can reveal to us how to plunge underneath a character’s skin, how to nestle the truth inside a lie, how to create stories that teach us ways to live. The emotional experiences we have while reading, influence our own words on the page and allow us to more fully understand our craft and gifts.
So, are you staring longingly at your friends’ summer Facebook posts, where they are eating gelato in Italy, or grilling by the pool, or white water rafting while you sit wearing ugly sweatpants, hunched in front of a computer?
Take Action! Pick up a book!
You’re watering and fertilizing.
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