Sunday, July 7, 2013

Feeding Your Writing Self: Reading

A few months ago (as I prepared to move and jettisoned books like a listing ship) I loaned a book to a friend.  It was an anthology of nonfiction, and I dogeared for him a particular essay ("The Beautiful City of Tirzah") that I thought he'd like.  Recently, he said that not only did he enjoy the reading, but he found that it had inspired him to write.

That's what good reading does.

Reading good material feeds the writer's soul.  It inspires.  Literally.  It breathes into you the breath of the writing spirit and tells you: you can, you should, you ought.  (Of course, if you are in a negative swirl, reading good material can make you say: I can never do this.  But silence those negative voices!)

I have long believed that, for the writer, reading should be therapeutic.  Too often, I hear writer-friends say that they don't have time to read if they are fully engaged in writing mode.  But the two should go hand-in-hand.  What you read should provide the foundation or the nutrient substrate for what you are writing.  It needn't be in the same genre or style.  It just needs to speak to where you mind is.

In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that reading can cure that writing block of which folks often complain.  So, if you find yourself stuck or feeling a bit slow, ask yourself: what good have I read today?  The right essay or story or novel can spark within you the belief and the desire to begin anew.

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