Bookin’ It (Reading for Writing)

A brief break in my two “series”. We’re still trying to get the hang of posting every week. Hopefully this entry will make due until then! -M

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Confession: I haven’t been a big reader in the past decade. I used to devour books, like you do when you’re young. I got so many free persona pan pizzas with Book It as a kid I basically swam in pepperoni. I would stay up every time a new Harry Potter would drop and finish it without sleep, and this was well after I was in my first stint of college. Somewhere along the way, though, I just… stopped picking up books.

I wasn’t sure why. I could blame the fact I took up the ol’ 9-5 after I left school the first time. I was so tired after coming home I wanted to decompress, write with L, and go to bed. I could blame school, when I started back again in 2009. I had to read So Many Things that I had no time to read anything else. When I graduated, I was completely encompassed by the year-and-a-half long misery of trying to find a job.

My job now can be pretty emotionally taxing, but aside from the typical ups and downs of working for a small office, it’s a great environment. Because of that environment, I am not as exhausted as I could be when I get home. I have time to spend catching up with my wife and even editing what I’d written early in the morning.

And then I found, strangely enough, that writing for myself makes me want to read again. Not just the non-fiction stuff I like to stuff my gob with at any given time, but actual fiction. It’s been made easier by being able to buy books and keep them on my phone to snag a chapter or two on breaks. (Kindles are definitely not the End of Reading, folks, it just makes it more accessible, but that’s neither here nor there.)

I have always worried that reading someone’s work would have me mimic it too strongly in my own. I think everyone worries about that. But I just finished “Prince of Tides” by Pat Conroy, and of all the myriad of emotions that I felt while reading that, good and bad, I came away thinking I love this ridiculous, overdone lyrical style. I love it despite myself. I bet I can pull it off with the right character voice. But I’ll do it my way.

Ah,

Ah, “Prince of Tides”. Nothing like being reminded what a complete mess being raised Southern is like among tons of other thiiiaaaaaaaAAAAUGH I still need time to recover.
(cr SaveTigersNow.org)

10,000 words into a fan-retooling of Batman’s HUSH from Bruce Wayne’s perspective, and I can’t tell you that whether or not it’s “Prince of Tides”-ish. But it’s been a hell of a lot of fun to write and to learn a character I’ve loved for a long time finally be honest with his “words” to me.

I’m currently reading Owen Wister’s “The Virginian” for the narrator of my Big Fat Historical Novel and I’m loving its early 1900s style. I have plans to pick up some Stephen King again soon, but most especially “Misery”, the Best Book on Writing Ever. I like to snag the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey for my girl Phedre’s poetic pondering. I pick up LS Baird’s “Evensong’s Heir” to re-read its familiar, lush music. And I’ve found that all this pleasure reading helps me put words on paper at a much faster clip than before.

In short: I’ve found a lot of relaxation in writing in a style that I’ve enjoyed partaking of, then making that voice my own. I see what can be done, and I feel that, hey, I can do that, too! It’s helped me not curb my writing, to be more audacious. Being free is part of healthy writing — and that’s what I’m going to write about in my next “Writing Again” post!

Have any recommendations for me? Let me know in comments!

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