I make no apologies when claiming to love reading. I was reading before I went to school, thanks to my parents reading to me every night.
All writers start out as readers. If someone tells me that they write books but don’t read them, I can’t help but wonder how he knows to construct a sentence, a paragraph, a story arc, and how to avoide clichés and stereotypes. How does he know what genre he is writing in, and what is already in that that genre.
So, a successful writer has to be a reader, for many reasons. Reading is the gateway to being a writer, any sort of writer. Off the top of my head, I read for:
4/ Even more research (I do a lot of research); and
5/ Educational purposes.
Reading for research! You need to research for both fiction and nonfiction texts. I’ve done enough research to fill a library with historical detail for my Steampunk novels; and I still feel like I’ve never researched enough. I find it is easier with my scientific articles, because I can list my references!
Reading has physical and intellectual benefits apart from supplying inspiration and verisimilitude to your prose.
This is why I have ten bookcases in my house and shelves packed with a double layer of books.
Over the past few days, I’ve been hit with the cleaning and gardening bug. I guess spring cleaning is a thing? I’ve put in a new garden, for more vegetables and herbs. I may remove the lavenders from the other vegetable garden as they are taking over. But they are doing so well…
On Monday, it seemed to me that everwhere I looked, my house was grubby. Not filthy, but just not clean enough, particularly my kitchen. Now the kitchen is much cleaner, the baby seedlings that have sprouted are planted out and we have to hope the cat doesn’t sit or pee on them. I’ve dusted. Tomorrow I plan on vacuuming and washing the floors.
Now … what does this have to do with writing? My extra energy levels have also flowed into my muse. I’m feeling the process flowing more smoothly, whereas I was having a hard time writing anything at all last week. Maybe seeing everything growing and blossoming has inspired me. We’ve had the first crop of the beans and the leafy greens from the garden, and I can see all the baby tomatoes (I’m salivating all ready), and the eggplants are flowering.
And, even though my lungs are still a little congested, they are better than they were, even with the pollen count to infinity. Now, all we need is rain … for my plants. My muse needs some refreshment too, but the gardening is certainly helping there. I find growing things a creative process.
Well, I’ve learnt an important lesson. Don’t try to push through with no juice. I did get the first draft written and it is sort of okay. However, I spent the night too wired too sleep.
So, today I’ve had to jolly myself along. Oh, we’re in the bathroom to pee, might as well have a shower. You’ve got your hair wet, might as well wash it. Gosh, it is just as easy to put on day clothes than put the PJs back on. Hey, if you don’t water the seedlings, they’ll die … and since you’re outside, might as well water the rest of the plants.
So, the take-away here is not to push too hard. Because I really do feel wrung out today!
This is my own personal name for writer’s block. I have plenty of projects to go on with, but I just don’t have any emotional connection to my muse.
I know this is my reaction to the turbulent time my family and I are going through, with the loss of my mother being the desert I am yet to cross.
Generally, when I’m like this, I write terrible poetry. I like to think I can write excellent poetical prose, but my poetry is nearly as bad as that of Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Sussex. It’s so bad it’s not even bad in a humorous way.
I’m going to write a first draft of a story. Wish me luck. Or send me a lemon to suck.
Are you a lurker?
I have been a lurker in the past. I lurked around the Voyager Online comments board for about six months before I started joining in the conversations. I spent about two months lurking around the Writing Race before I joined in. These days, I tend to jump right in, because I wasted so much time in the past.
I remember well why I was a lurker. I didn’t want to be seen as a newbie or ignorant. Now days, I don’t have the time to linger. I jump in – and sometimes I jump right back out. Most of the time, I find new friends and amazing writing resources.
So, I’ve crawled out of the shadows and into the light. However, I do not sit in judgement of anyone else who preferes to be a lurker. It’s a risk to step out where people can see you and make you into a target. If you feel safer lurking, lurk away!
It is kind of a cliché that authors and writers get frustrated by being asked where they get their ideas from. It seems that people suspect we are part of a special club, or part of a secret mailing list. I wish it was that simple, but it isn’t. Finding ideas – good ideas – is hard work.
You have to dig for good ideas. You have to feed the muse. I recently spent a day going though Victorian-era medical articles online, and discovered gold dust. Today, I went and bought a whole heap of cheap secondhand books, including some reference books. I can guarantee that every one of those books will contain at least one new, unique and unusual idea. You just have to be ready to recognise it.
And that is the skill that writers have. They learn to grab onto a inspirational idea with both hands and hang on.
I used to think it was a joke that people ask writers about how they get ideas. This is because I suffer from an overactive ideas generator. It fires off a hundred ideas a week, and my main problem is sorting the cliche from the original idea. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. After all, a ‘good’ writer should be able to take a stale idea and make it sing. Right? Right? So often I wonder if I’m letting an idea die because I haven’t the skills. However, that aside, I thought everyone had the same problem, and it was a kind of cultural joke.
Well, of course, my viewpoint has all changed. I now know that some people believe writers pull ideas out of a hat. Apparently there is some kind of secret magic box, full of ideas and we can pull them out when we need them. Some people believe ideas aren’t the end result of some hard thinking. I’ve heard the longing in another person’s voice when I’m writing an idea in my notebook. (I find my ideas are like dreams, they seem to disappear if I don’t nail them down.) I’ve seen the ‘why is she so lucky’ look.
What I noticed when I was at uni was that part of our course seemed to be about how you went about getting ideas. Now, I often wonder how anyone thinks they can be a writer if they don’t know how to generate original ideas of their own. After all, reality sparks off so many inspirations. I can get six ideas just by watching the news or reading a science text. I can get one just by chatting with friends. I don’t see this as a gift or talent. I get ideas by keeping my eyes and ears open, and by being prepared to sit and think through an idea to a conclusion (logical or otherwise). I do believe this ability can be taught.
And most of the ‘secret magic box’ believers seem to ignore all this lovely advice. When our lecturers told us how to turn to real life text for inspiration, they ignored these gems. When they talked about research and hard work, most of them were bored and made comments under their breath. And yet, when it came time to do creative writing, they were lost for ideas. (And they weren’t suffering from writer’s block…that is an entirely different problem.) They were waiting for inspiration to fall magically from the sky.
I wish. Some people don’t understand that the 1% inspiration can be as much work as the 99% perspiration. There is no secret magic box.