I am and always will be a reader first, then a writer. Yes, that means it’s Reading Friday.
Despite the fact that my intention is to talk about reading and not writing, it’s difficult to separate the two. I am reminded of the time when I first started writing romance novels. Again and again I heard people say, “I read so many bad books, I finally decided even I could do better than that,” or, “If somebody sold this piece of crap, I could sell a book, too,” and variations on that theme.
I understand having a target that’s approachable, and that is certainly one way to find one. But I was never, ever inspired by what I perceived as bad books and bad writing. If anything, they just frustrated me and sometimes even depressed me until I felt ground down into the hot tar asphalt street under some successful “bad” writer’s stiletto heel.
The only thing that ever inspired me to write was reading something wonderful.
Still is, for that matter.
I read to escape. I read to feel. I read to be inspired. I read to be relieved of the moment’s stresses and pains.
When I was overwhelmed to the point of tears by being a young mom of three young boys, in the middle of a move to a new house, buried under mess and boxes–in both houses, old and new–and I was given a few hours alone in the old house to make sense of things while somebody else took care of the boys? I spent two hours with my head buried in Gone With the Wind, a book I’d found in one of those boxes, that I’d forgotten I even owned.
And when the clock finally told me it was time to get moving or else my truancy from adult responsibility would be discovered, I flew through those boxes with a soaring spirit, my imagination in a different place and a different time, looking forward to the next stolen hours. (I am compelled to say that the next time I attempted to read Gone With the Wind I read it with new eyes, and was not able to keep going, but that’s another story for another day.)
When I’ve been under similar pressures to meet writing deadlines, again, if I can find a wonderful book to read, nothing gets me in that zone so well. The book may have nothing to do with what I’m writing–in fact, it shouldn’t have a connection to what I’m writing. It has to be a different world. When I’m writing, a well-turned phrase, a passionate kiss, a blood-curdling murder, a soul-searing sacrifice–these things inspire me to write harder, write better, write more.
To keep writing.
What about you? Does reading provide you an escape, or when you’re overburdened is the only way to deal with it to shove aside distractions like books and dive in and get things done?