"I deserve neither such praise nor such censure. I am not a great reader, and I enjoy many things."
I had not realized that I was neglecting my love for reading until I picked up Jan Karon's Home to Holly Springs and revelled in another author's writing like a man parched for water in a desert. My writing was suffering slightly from what I cannot explain as anything but over-working. Trying to be a fountain of inspiration when I'm dry as a bone. Just as in life one cannot pour love into another person with an empty cup, neither can an author pour life into her writing if she is not filling her mind with words other than her own.
Our minds are not so original we can thrive entirely on its own wanderings. We must feed it and cultivate it and then make it work. So this Christmas break I decided that I would not push myself to write anything unless it "came" to me. I will not work on the Gypsy Song or think about Puddleby Lane or anything else. I will instead read and read and read. It's a luxury I have not been allowing myself, but oh the joys of it! I have already been privileged to bury my nose in Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins, the aforementioned Home to Holly Springs, Elisabeth Elliot's A Chance to Die, and I plan to simply live in them for a little while, filling my mind with things other than my usual trails of thought.
It seems silly to say that I've forgotten my love for reading--I never quite did that, but I did forget how beneficial, how vital it is as an author to read nearly as much as you write. Otherwise your reader will detect a hint of staleness in your words that is the death-blow to any book. We want our writing to be alive, kicking, breathing, pulsing, nearly made of flesh and blood--not the skeleton of a good story hanging up in chains. :D
You have no idea how marvelous it felt to read Eight Cousins again. Louisa May Alcott and I, as far as writing goes, are soul-mates. I love her books--they hold a place in my heart that will never be effaced--and to once again wander the pages of those dear tales was as relaxing to me as a vacation, almost.
So here's to a week of reading other people's writing, and here's to renewed inspiration when I return! :)