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.