The phone keeps ringing, there’s a nagging pain in my side (misplaced appendix?), and feet and hammers are pounding on my roof just above my head.
How is a writer to concentrate???
I’ve written only one of my allotted three pages today. So far. I thought writing my weekly blog post might get me going.
What do you do when the world conspires against your writing? Do you give up? Snatch the excuse with a secret bit of relief? Or do you push through like any good athlete when running out of breath?
I left off my writing to allow my new plot points to percolate and launched into writing this blog, an activity I absolutely love. And I disconnected my phone. Temporarily, of course. I took a walk around our condo, did a bit of tidying, started the dishwasher, and somehow eased the funny ache in my side. (I guess my half hour walk this morning wasn’t enough exercise.) Finally I found this post from over a year ago about the benefits of reading. And it’s summer, the season of reading.
What is the one piece of advice we hear over and over? The one that annoys quite a few people out there in the real world?
No, it’s not “get eight hours sleep every night” or “eat healthy all your life” although variations of those suggestions fill bookstores. Our friends, relatives, and especially our parents iterate those maxims again and again.
The advice I’ve been given all my life is simple. When you want to learn, read. When you want to relax, read. When you want to write, read.
Yes, I slipped that last one in because I’ve seen it time and again. And it’s true. There is a magical process that happens in our brains when we read. We take in the story, the language, the length and variety of sentences, the way to effectively draw characters, and any number of other writing lessons which we just seem to learn. Like sponges we soak up such a wealth of knowledge both in the how-to sphere and in the enjoyment realm, that when we write our own works, those lessons make themselves known.
I’ve written all my life. And I’ve read even longer. Well, only if you believe I took in the lessons of my mother’s reading in the womb. 🙂
All the lessons I taught my English students, and there were a lot, are not nearly so effective as the simple practice of reading, especially good writers. When I sit down to write every day, my own style comes pouring onto the pages, whether I’m writing a blog post, an email to my distant friends, or my daily pages of my historical novels.
Where did that style come from? Well, some of it came from me being a talker. Another portion finds its roots in what I’ve learned on my writing journey. But the bulk of it comes from the reading I’ve done my whole life, whether it be lessons from great writers on how to write well or from not-so-great writers on what not to do.
I’ve laughed and cried, shaken my head and even stopped reading, but I’ve always learned from my reading. My shelves of books are treasured friends and I hope I live long enough to reread them over and over. Would that some of my readers might one day feel the same about my books. (By the way, the pounding has stopped. I guess my dryer vents are all fixed!)