Sunday, June 6, 2010

Reading is Nourishment

Assignments: This week was good for everything except writing. I broke down and bought a MacBook Pro which I barely had time to register, much less play around with. Work was a little on the crazy side. Wednesday evening, I began an extended journey down the lazy river with a complete paddle complement. I’m barely going to finish my assignment for Wayward Writers to post this afternoon. So what can I claim to have accomplished this week?

Well, my assignment for Wayward Writers had nothing to do with Catch a Falling Star, and is, in fact, a 2700 word short story. Whew! I didn’t TOTALLY blow the week.

A confession. The paddle used on that extended journey down the lazy river was a novel ... Mutiny on the Bounty to be exact, one third of what, to my mind, is the greatest sea story ever told. Oh, it was amazing to shake mental hands with Roger Byam again, as he unfurled the mainsail of the Fletcher Christian led mutiny against the tyranny of Captain Bligh. Of how he, himself was hauled back to England in irons and condemned to death.

If you only know the story through the films, please read it. I’ll beg if I have to. In fact, read the whole trilogy, which includes Mutiny on the Bounty, Men against the Sea, and Pitcairn’s Island. It’s more than just a sea story, it’s a story of human interactions, of consequences, of relationships. Just as the women of Jane Austen’s novels are far more complex than most people think, so, too are these men Fletcher Christian and Captain William Bligh. The gentleman Master’s Mate and the blue collar Captain locked in a battle of natures.

My point is that I have to recharge my writing batteries from time to time by reading, by diving into the sea of someone else’s world and letting it permeate me and brine me to the core. And working a full time job means that the writing may suffer for brief periods of time to get the reading in. That happened last week when I devoured Mutiny on the Bounty. I’m not completely recharged, but I feel so much stronger and viable.

Here’s a question. Can a writer truly be good if s/he doesn’t read, at least in his or her writing sphere? Somehow I don’t think so, though rumors claim otherwise. Every writer I know craves reading. Whether they devour fiction or non-fiction doesn’t seem to matter. It doesn’t to me. It’s the stimulation, the synthesis of new ideas and perspectives It’s the other writer crossing time and distance to tell me her or his stories. I love that mystical and magical telepathy that happens between one person and another through the printed word.

Reading is more to me than just scanning words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. It takes me by the hand and walks me into different places and times. Writing does the same thing, but I need more than just my own worlds. I am best friends with David Copperfield and Harry Potter and Elisabeth Bennett and more recently Bella Swan (Team Edward), and they are there for me whenever I need them. Never would these people replace my corporeal friends, but I hold those from novels close to my heart as well.

For me, living in the worlds of others for a time helps me create my own like walking into people’s homes gives my ideas for my own. Reading a book about the sea can remind me of breezes blowing through the tree tops, or the undulating Hill Country of Texas, or any number of things. It doesn’t necessarily spur me to send my characters out to sea. Though that would be be fun one day.

Some may call me borderline insane, but my memories of these people’s worlds rivals real world memories in intensity and emotional impact. What keeps me on the sane side of things, I think is that I KNOW the difference between real and imaginary. The dividing line is as thin as cheesecloth sometimes, but it’s always there.

My goal this week is to keep chugging away. Three submissions to agents. More polishing. Keeping up with my assignments.

Take care, and I’ll let y’all know how I did next week.

1 comment:

  1. I need books like I need to breathe. I love my TBR pile, and my 100 books challenge, and I love to read the work of my writing friends, especially my BF...YOU. xo
    Great post. You know I'm rooting for you.
    PS - Thanks for the feedback on Absolution.