Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"I deserve neither such praise, nor such censure."

 As a passionate writer, it can be hard to realize that there are other pursuits I enjoy just as well...
"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! :)


Abigail Hartman said...

I heartily agree with you, Rachel. Interestingly enough, my family was talking about this just the other evening: the need to read widely, of non-fiction and not just fiction, in order to cultivate one's mind. It's a garden, not an attic. You can't just store things in it (whatever Sherlock Holmes says); you have to plant seeds in it and water it, to pull up weeds and just tend it. Otherwise it ends up overgrown and useless.

Thanks for the reminder, Rachel, and have fun with your literary rambles! May you profit much by them.

Maria said...

A good reminder! I don't write as often as I'd like to, but when I do I rarely read. On the other times the problem is that I read less-than-amazing writing and that does exactly the opposite to my own writing as a good book would do.

Jenny Freitag said...

Ah, I'm glad I'm not the only one who is only writing what "comes" at present. I, too, have been a little stale and detached from my writing. Perhaps I have been pushing myself too hard. Perhaps I am fatigued. Perhaps a hundred things, I don't know. Whatever the problem was, I, too, have taken a little time to relax.

I have been reading. I have eyeballs in The Art of Medieval Hunting, David Copperfield, Tremendous Trifles, and the small but wonderful fairy-tale of Snati and Prince Ring. I am not sure what all of these will do to Plenilune. I am not sure I want to see. O.o