Sunday, January 15, 2012

So Many Books – So Little Time.

I’ve started reading again. Voraciously.  To-do lists abandoned and hours lost to chapter after chapter – a few quick pages before work or while waiting for the pasta water to boil – waking in the middle of the night and not being able to resist picking up the story just to see where the next page leads.  Whether on the kindle Steve gave me or an actual book in my hands, I’ve reignited a passion that I had, sadly, over the years set aside.  Throughout my childhood and young adult years I was never without a book. I devoured them.  Not quite a speed reader, the pages still flew and I would often get to the end of a book, able to relay the plot, character development, setting, etc, but not able to recall the protagonists name if it wasn’t “integral” to the story.  The stories were what filled a void for me. 

And I wrote…but over the years as my reading waned, so did my writing.  Both were sporadic and when I picked up either passion, I noticed the resistance from lack of use. 
So I’ve started reading and writing again.  Finding a balance for the two is a work in progress.  Joyce Carol Oates, in The Faith of A Writer, shares advice for reading as a writer: “Read widely, read enthusiastically, be guided by instinct and not design. For if you read, you need not become a writer; but if you hope to become a writer, you must read.” 
I understand and agree with the sentiment and necessity for having both in your life. Not wanting to spend a few hundred bucks to get back in the reading swing, I turned to two free avenues for now.  When I got my kindle I downloaded mostly free classics I’d either not read or wanted to revisit.  I returned to a longtime staple, the public library and began to borrow books again (or to download them from their website).  Still, I felt a sense of distrust in myself and the choices I was making. Where to even begin to read good writing again to help me enhance my writing?  I didn’t feel a sense of trust in the New York Times Bestseller list.  I didn’t want to run down Oprah’s book club choices.  So I turned to the few blogs that I started to follow at the end of last year.  David Abrams, of The Quivering Pen, wrote two blogs, My Year of Reading: The Best Books of 2011 and My Year of Reading: Favorite Covers of 2011.  The second struck a chord with me as my library time often consisted of me standing, head tilted to one side, attempting to read titles, but most often picking a book off of the shelf because of the color of the spine, the font, or the wrap around bit of the cover that I could see.  Taking a leap of faith in Abrams and his choices, I have based my starting reading list from his two blog posts. 
For the kindle, I still go to Amazon to browse the free kindle section, but primarily download free books from Pixel of Ink.  Both Abramson’s list and Pixel have led me to a much wider variety of genres than I ever used to read. As I turn page after page and flow from one book to the next, what I find is that I’m feeling the flow of the writer better than I used to.  I’ve become more discerning of excellent writing over good (and bad) and have come to appreciate those small details (hah!) like a protagonists name or the name of a town can be integral to the plot, character development and setting.  I’m able to differentiate to a greater degree a depth to a plot, a writing style or theme – a true gift of an writer’s words to transport you to another place.
I’m grateful the fallow years of reading (and writing) nestled between my voracious years still managed to hone skills to recognize good writing and a desire to produce quality work of my own.  The trick now will be to not use my newfound reading passion as procrastination to my writing projects…let the balancing act begin!

1 comment:

  1. Love it, Amy! I'm going to check out those two blog posts you mention. I love how your reading is improving and you feed that back into your writing. My own problem is I get so caught up in reading that I want to keep doing that and forget about writing. I need to find that balance, too. Love the Oates quote!