Reading to Write

I was going to say THE most helpful thing to me in trying my hand at this writing business has been.... But then I thought of 2 other things that have also been incredibly helpful, so let me just call this one definitely in the top 5:

Being given permission to read a lot.

Actually, I heard MANY times before this that a good writer reads a lot. Period. But I wasn't reading and thought I could get by without it -- my life is busy, I'm running a home (and carpool), have 2 active kids to keep up with, involved in my church... yada, yada. Then Tammy recommended Stephen King's book about writing to me:

She warned me that it's a bit rough around the edges in places. If you've read any Stephen King this won't surprise you. I still haven't finished it because I keep getting stuck in the valuable mid-section of the book where he talks about your "writer's toolbox". That's the basics like vocabulary and grammar, but when he goes into the specifics of writing, he starts with reading.
He starts that section with: "If you want to be a great writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut."
He goes on to say that good writing can be instructionary, and bad writing is golden -- "worth a semester at a good writing school, even with the superstar guest lecturers thrown in." (King is NOT a fan of "Bridges of Madison County", I can tell you...)
About good writing: "You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you."
Later he says: "If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that." (ouch...)
He has a great few paragraphs about what, exactly, you're missing if you turn the TV off to do your reading -- love when he refers to it as "the glass teat".
He wraps up this section by saying: "If you feel you need permission to do all the reading and writing your little heart desires, however, consider it hereby granted by yours truly."
So. Stephen King himself granted me permission to read and write to my heart's content. Truly, it has changed my life! As a human AND as a writer. He's SO right about learning by being swept away from others' writing. And I have been blessed to be swept away by the force of some writing lately. One was in "The Year of Fog". The other, I'll write about later this week. And, I have learned that while Kate Gosselin is an amazing baby-making machine, she is no writer. Her friend, Beth Carson, is a writer... and got a sweet book deal because TLC already gave her a ready-made 'platform'. Literary genius it isn't...
I, in turn, give you permission, writer or no, to read to your heart's content. I am on the verge of giving you instructions to turn off the TV so that you can. Of course Denise watches TV with every light in the house on, so she does both at the same time. Whatever. Reading's good, and there is some good stuff out there, and there is some trash out there. May you spend more time with the former.

1 comment:

Tammy M. said...

I am glad that King's book has been helpful for you to read. He not only does not love Bridges, but he totally came down hard on Stephanie Meyer who wrote the Twilight Series. Stephen King does not mince his words. Glad you are reading and writing.

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