I have a confession to make. Sometimes I read in order to avoid writing. There. I said it. I read at stoplights often enough that my children have to point and say, “Green. Green! GREEN!” in increasingly frantic tones, just before the rude non-reader honks come from the cars behind us.
I read while I wait for my children and while I brush my teeth. Just last week, I read on my daily walk. While passing my oldest daughter’s home, I understand that she pointed out the window in disbelief. “Nick!” she called to her husband, “Is that lady really reading while she’s walking?! Oh. It’s my mom. Why am I even surprised?” Once, I even read 43 pages while in the dentist’s chair.
As it turns out, my reading habit might be one of the best things I can do for my writing.
Read to Inspire
We all know there’s nothing like losing yourself in a book whose pages are so magical, they fairly turn themselves. We look up and are surprised to find it’s not raining – after all, it was pouring in the story.
Start noticing which phrases delight you. Stop a moment and think about why they do. Chances are, it’s because this book unpacked a suitcase of fresh word choices, analogies, and dialogues. The clichés have left the building and we’re thrilled!
Read to Motivate
When I read about Stephen King being able to paper his bathroom with rejection slips, I am motivated. When I recall that both Stephen King and John Grisham had wives who believed in them (the infamous Carrie was fished out of a trash can by King’s wife; Grisham and his wife self-published his first novel when he couldn’t find a publisher. They sold it out of the trunk of their car; today, they are laughing their way to the bank), I count myself blessed to have a spouse who is my biggest fan.
Knowing that 80-something publishers rejected The Wizard of Oz and that Nicholas Sparks was a drug rep, putting out juice and donuts for yet another hospital sales pitch when he got the call regarding his mega-deal for The Notebook, I am reminded that there’s something to be said for both perseverance and the chance for a modern day fairytale. Hey – it’s a book! Anything can happen.
Read to Learn
I’ve been 40 for 7 years now and I still don’t know all there is to know about anything, much less everything. So, when I embarked upon writing my first novel (after seven non-fiction books), I began to read even more fiction. I gulped down dialogue kings and drama queens. I devoured women’s fiction, swallowed romantic suspense, snatched up crime novels marinated in mystery, snacked on current secular best sellers and wolfed down articles, chapters, blogs, and books on the art of writing itself.
I’m currently serving myself a buffet of historical fiction; my master’s degree is in American history. As a full-time high school teacher and the mother of four blessings who also love to read, I’d love to write historical novels someday. As a writer, I take note of what works and what doesn’t. As a history lover, I treasure authors whose research renders their prose not just lovely, but accurate. As a police chief, my husband does the same for authors who justly portray the world of law enforcement.
Read for Fun
Make sure reading doesn’t become just another chore. Don’t be a book snob – read because you love that author, that genre, that time period, that gift for dialogue. Curl up on the porch swing, in the hammock, by the fireplace, or at the stop light, and savor.
And remember, since books foster dreams, there’s nothing wrong with dreaming someday it will be YOUR book someone is reading just for fun!