Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Reading as Play

The past several months my muse has been sputtering. Due to rewrites, edits, and proofs—and several other items that constitute both my writing and personal life—I didn’t get a solid start on my Manti temple book until school let out.

Try writing with the kids home all day.


Seriously, I could have gotten a lot more done than I have, even with my sweet little people needing attention. I even organized our days so I’d have some writing time each week. But even after I got off the (literally) stupid medication that made it hard to think, I’d sit down and wonder what scene I was supposed to write next—and then question each one I had already written. I felt like I was forcing each word of the story.

Worse, I was treading water rather than producing much of anything. Every so often I’d get a scene down that I was happy with, then think, “Yes! I’m on a roll now!” only to run into another sputter and stop the next day.

It wasn’t quite writer’s block—I was producing a bit on some level—but it was darn close.

Fortunately, I think I stumbled upon the reason and the cure this weekend: I had lost the joy of reading. Sound odd? It did to me, too.

See, I’m one of those people who believes that to be a good writer, you must read. This should be a good thing.

But with the hyper-controlling brain of mine, I turned reading into one more chore on my to do list.

Laundry? Check.

Dinner? Check.

Read today? Check.


I’d find myself reading because I “needed” to. I’d open a book just to get through a few more pages so I could move on to the next one I “needed” to read. When I finished one, I’d mark it off on the trusty list I’ve kept for years of what I’ve read each year, and feel like I had accomplished something.

Then this last weekend, I took a book that (of course) I felt I needed to read to keep up on my market, and decided to (holy cow) throw caution to the wind and read for hours on end.

It’s sad for me to admit that I don’t remember the last time I did that. I’ve been fitting reading into the cracks of my life for months now. I made sure I found time for reading (because, well, good writers read)—but often (and I’m dead serious here) it would be while brushing my teeth or while eating my breakfast. You know, those snippets of time that would otherwise be wasted if I weren’t multi-tasking. ALL. THE. TIME.

I finished that book and put it down, feeling like my children look after they get to play at the park. My mind felt alive with new energy, words, images.

Yesterday I produced about twice as many words on my work in progress as I have in any single day for months.

Coincidence? I don't think so.

Note to self: Remember to play with books. Reading is not a job.


samiam said...

I totally agree. I'm amazed at how much my writing improves when I've been immersed (not dipped) in reading good writing. It's like your brain is taking a class and it doesn't know it!

Brillig said...

Now, see if I were a brilliant and talented writer, I would totally agree with you. As it is, I'll just take your word for it. :-)

Unknown said...

Reading jump starts writing for me any time--no matter if it's a newspaper, a novel, or even sometimes the back of a cereal box.

Glad the creativity returned, Annette. Don't know how you do so many things so well. You're an inspiration.

Stephanie Humphreys said...

I love reading so much. It is nice to be reminded that reading is really part of the job. It's great when I can immerse myself in a book and tell every one that I am "busy working".

Tamra Norton said...

I completely agree! It's been a looooong time since I've been able to just sit for a day and read, and read, and read. The closest thing was a road trip I was recently on and listened to HP7--kept me awake, but not quite the same as r*e*a*d*i*n*g!!!!

I'm half-way through a book I've been waiting forever to read. Since I can only get to it at night, I end up falling asleep after a chapter, not because I'm not interested. I'm just so dadgum tired. *sigh*

Maybe tomorrow I'll throw caution (and the dishes, and the laundry, and my WIP) to the wind and just READ! :)

Luisa Perkins said...

There is nothing that gets my writing fire going like reading a good book. Yay for the new energy burst!

Josi said...

congrats, Annette, and hear, hear. Inksplasher's summer reading has been good for me because even though it's on a list, it's books that have grabbed me. Such a relief, and such an inspiration :-)

Unknown said...

Reading is the great joy and balancer of my life! When I stopped reading, I stopped writing all together. Thanks for the reminder, Annette.

An Ordinary Mom said...

What an interesting find! I love to read ... for several different reasons. However, when I start a book, especially one that I know will easily catch my attention, I have to clear my schedule so I can read it in a day or two. Everything else gets shoved aside. Reading is my escape route when I get to shutdown real life for a time.


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