Blog Challenge · Writing

Day 5 – Reading is Self-Mentoring

I don’t have a lot of time to read. I have to make the time… and I always make that time.

There’s a Stephen King quote that says: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

As a writer, I tend to read everything critically. Do not confuse that statement to mean that I criticize what I read. Critical reading implies that I’m looking for the how, where and why of the writing. I’m analyzing it for content, flow, characterization, and consistency. I’m asking myself, “Would I have done this differently?”

So, to that effect, whether I’m reading a news article, a blog post, a novel, or a personal development book… I am mentoring myself through the writing of others.

The King quote above was the premise of today’s prompt for the Author Blog Challenge. Our favorite horror author also said:

You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.

My favorite moments in reading are those when I forget to be critical.

Recently, I read a novel called The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller. It’s a quirky book, written in an odd, narrative style where you are immersed in the train of thought of the main character. At first, my critical mind jumped through all of its hoops. The spacing of the paragraphs is odd. The style is just…. weird.  The… Oh. My. God. What the hell just happened?

And at that moment… that pivotal moment just a few pages into the book… my critical brain shut down. I swallowed the story whole, while it in turn devoured me. I lived and breathed with the main character, and understood him on a deeply personal level. I felt his fears in his post-apocalyptic world. I deeply mourned his losses. I followed his tiny glimpse of hope eagerly, wishing for whatever it was he wanted to find.

And when I closed the book at the end, I was changed.

When a book grabs you by the horns and wrestles you out of your own critical analysis, that’s where the magic of writing lives. It is those books that truly transform us as writers. When we stop critiquing, and start living the book that we’re reading, we understand what we want from our own writing.

The next time we put pen to paper, we reach deeper. We grab for more of the meat. We attack the soul of our characters and demand that they expose their deepest fears, greatest hopes and wildest dreams.

neil-gaiman1Writing is about creating a safe space in which to explore emotions. That moment, when you are exposing your own soul… when you are writing without fear… that is when you are accessing the tools that have been taught to you by reading those stories that have moved you to tears, or laughter, or fear, or longing.

So, no matter how busy I am with life, I will always carve out time to read. And no matter what I read, I always learn a little something more about the craft and art of writing.

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