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A Writer's Thoughts On Reading

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

I write, therefore I read.

Not the most innovative coin of phrase, but I don’t think Descartes would mind my nipping in and borrowing his famous meditation, “Cogito ergo sum.” Besides, as a writer, I can’t think of any better way to begin my new blog than with a post about reading.

I’m stereotyping a bit here, but engineers are fascinated with the latest gadgets and gizmos. Artists dedicate much of their time training themselves to see. Doctors and auto mechanics, surprisingly similar in personality testing, enjoy discovering how things work.

Blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughn reportedly said something along the lines of, “If you want to play <music> you have to first learn to listen.”

Stephen King and Isaac Asimov, in their musings on writing, both said good writers have to be good readers.

That natural inclination to indulge in the fruits of a craft may be a defining characteristic separating a job from a vocation. I wouldn’t know. Such ideas are well beyond my pay-grade. What I do know is that I’ve always loved to read and, in doing so, seeded the urge to write.

Reading is a chore for me. I do now and have always been an agonizingly slow reader. It’s something I’ve had to learn to deal with, but I’m OK with it, too.

When I read, it’s a lot like going to Paris and seeking out the finest restaurant in the city. No one in their right mind would order the chef’s signature dish then bolt it down in a rush to visit the Louvre or see the Eiffel Tower. Every mouthful is savored. It’s swirled around the palate like a fine wine, discovering every nuance of spice and flavor. Then, naturally, it is washed down with that fine wine France is so famous for.

That’s how I read. Every word is relished. Each phrase, savored. Plot twists are like discovering an unexpected hint of honey in your goat cheese. Wonderful!

So let me take that extra two weeks to finish the book we want to discuss. I’m going to anyway because a) I physically can’t read it any faster, and b) I won’t!

Just this morning, my wife said to me, “Life’s to short to drink bad coffee.” Well, it’s too short to race through a good book, too.

As a writer, I’ve made reading a staple in my routine. I start my day reading. Mornings kick off with spiritual reading of some kind. It’s my form of morning prayer.

Then, I read something about the craft. I recently finished Stephen King’s The Writing Life. Now I’m reading Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder (both properly presented on my webpage). It’s part of my job as a writer, not a separate hobby or an indulgence. It’s part of the work day because it feeds that continued desire to grow as a writer and I hope that I always will hunger to improve.

The rest of the day is spent doing whatever needs doing: editing, writing something new, working on a short story, grocery stores, and taking the car to the shop. Evenings are spent with whatever I feel like reading. Usually with a bourbon or a brandy at my elbow.

I invite all readers check out the link to books I have read, or am reading. Feel free to suggest something, especially if it is about the craft of writing.

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