Reading to Write

By all accounts I read a lot.  I often read a book a week, in fact.  I read all types of fiction, some popular and some classics.  I enjoy the occasional “beach read” as my mother calls pulp fiction and I also love more complex works that challenge my brain to consider new ideas.  I read biography and non-fiction and I am always up for a good recommendation.  Book clubs are my passion and I belong to two of them.  The advantage of book clubs, I’ve found, is that they make me read books that I would not have otherwise considered.

A few months ago, a friend asked me if I write every day.  I sadly admitted that I don’t write every single day; sometimes the demands of my children and my charity work prevent me from writing anything more than a few scribbles in my journal.  My journal, I told him defensively, is always by my side and ready for a note.  But I am not one of those writers who forces herself to write five pages a day no matter what.

Beyond a noncommittal “hmm” my friend had no comment.  After the conversation though, I couldn’t get the idea of daily writing out of my head.

Then I realized that what I do every single day is read.  I read before bed; I read during lunch; I read during my kids’ activities as I shuttle them around; and I read voraciously when I travel, which I do often.  For a writer, this is just as important.

From the ever-popular _Girl with the Dragon Tattoo_ I learned a little more about description.  From the recent podcast of the work of the Edwidge Danticat I learned about the use of metaphor.  I read _Bad Mother_ by Ayelet Waldman on my recent plane ride, and besides being positive that she and I could be best friends in real life, I learned a great deal about memoir as a genre from her. I read the new novel _South of Broad_ by Pat Conroy and learned how location can play a huge part in how a story unfolds – and in fact, how the city in which a story takes place can even function as a character in the plot.  I have a lovely writer friend, Trish Wooldridge, who has taught me through her novels-in-progress about the genre of fantasy, which I would never have considered reading before reading her amazing works, but now add to my to-read list.

I keep a list of books that I want to read next to my computer, to which I am forever adding.

Authors need other authors to teach them the craft.  It’s something we writers are never done doing: learning.

So now when asked if I write every day, I can reply in the negative honestly, but add confidently that every day I am learning to be a better writer.

3 thoughts on “Reading to Write

  1. Thank you for the compliment!!! 🙂

    Also, besides the compliment – great post. One thing I come across with too many writers is that they DO NOT read! At all! Reading is absolutely mandatory for anyone who wants to be a writer. And the thing is, you also DO write every day – even if it’s not on your fiction. You write emails, you write articles… that’s the important part. You’re constantly outputting as well as inputting. The people who NEED to write every day, are those who can’t stick with a project to the finish: obviously not your problem as you now have two finished novels and plenty of article to show. 🙂

  2. After hearing an interview of Ayelet Waldman, I borrowed Bad Mother from the library, but never got around to reading it. I hope to swing back to it one day, and would read it with a different perspective this time! Maybe it’s good I didn’t read it yet.

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