Because I Read
This dream of being a writer started with the opening of a book when I was a tyke. It was the enjoyment I received of getting lost inside a story with characters that seemed to breathe real air. I read story after story when I was little - Dr. Seuss, The Bernstein Bears, as well as the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew - and from there I took my Star Wars action figures and started acting out my own heroic tales of adventure along my bookshelves and window sills. Not being satisfied with acting out my stories, I soon began to scribble my imaginative ramblings down on paper and filled dozens of spiral notebooks with short stories and poems. Yet, it all started with opening a book.
I still read as much as possible. I don’t believe you can really write well unless you do because it is by reading that we learn. I’m not just referring to gaining knowledge on a particular topic, although all of my research comes by books and magazines, but reading other authors in order to learn how they weave their magical words together. While I still love getting lost in a great story, I can’t finish a section without going back and seeing how that author made me feel what he wanted me to feel. I examine sentence structure, pacing, the words used or even the words not used. I want to know their tricks.
When it comes to fictional reading, it’s the story that grips me; not the genre. While fantasy authors dominate my bookshelves, I also enjoy a good mystery, a steamy romance or erotica, and a classy classic. I am actually in the middle of four books now, each of a different genre, including a memoir. I disagree with the mindset that reading the category you are writing will spoil your story. These authors have succeeded and I want to know how, and the only way to do that is to read. Am I influenced by them? Of course I am, that doesn’t weaken my craft; it strengthens it. I believe writers have to read differently than other people. It’s as if when we read, school is always in session.
Furthermore, reading gives me ideas. By reading the newspaper, the articles people share on Twitter or Facebook, or browsing through magazines, I gain some of my blog rants such as Supersize Me! and The Rights of Chickens. It also aids me in my freelance writing for other magazines by giving me valuable research or showing me a direction I hadn’t thought of before. Some of these I just clip out, copy, and stuff in a rainy day folder to pull from when my well of inspiration begins to run dry. Reading helps open my eyes as long as I keep my mind open as well.
Reading was the spring board into my dream of being a writer. Reading is also the tool that keeps me at it and motivates me to strive for better prose. It sparks that drive of imagination within me that says, “I can do that.”
If I think about it, it’s a circle, really. I’ve read, so I want to write. I write, therefore I read. How about you? If you’re a writer, what stories catapulted you into writing? If you’re not a writer, what stories bring you the most enjoyment?
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