… but sometimes it takes a great book to remind me of that.
Let me explain a dirty little secret about writing that your junior-high English teacher doesn’t tell you when you pipe up in class “I want to be a writer!”: learning the craft of writing sucks a little bit of enjoyment out of reading. Folks could write dissertations about that topic–it wouldn’t surprise me if someone has–but I’m going to hit the high points here. Writers write because they 1. love to read, 2. they love to tell stories, and 3. they want to write down those stories so lots of people can read them. In order to make sure people, you know, *read* them, you have to get good at it. And in order to get good at it, you have to read a lot. Which isn’t a problem, right, because we love to read! But there’s a difference between reading for pleasure and reading critically, between enjoying a story and picking it apart to see why it works. Eventually it’s hard to enjoy a book because we see the plot twist coming, not because it’s trite or overdone, but because we see the seeds the author planted in chapter two. We see them because we’ve tried to plant them ourselves.
I read a lot of books, some of them by author-friends, and I enjoy the time I spend doing it. I appreciate their artistry, I giggle at the right places, I wish I could write as well as them. I still like reading, of course, but it’s been a while since I’ve read a book that’s kept me up at night.
Which brings me to what I’m reading now: Brent Week’s Way of Shadows. It’s an epic fantasy with an assassin and his apprentice at the core. The writing style is easy to read; the politics are complex but not overly so; it makes me root for a bad guy who isn’t a villain. It’s hitting all my trigger points, and it’s compulsively readable. I understand that what does it for me doesn’t do it for others, and that’s part of what makes the reading/writing gig so great; there’s something for everyone. But this book is reminding me why I love reading–and ultimately why I write–so damn much. It’s fun. It’s entertainment. It’s escape. It’s caring about what happens to people who don’t exist. And being a writer means bringing that joy to others.
Thanks, Mr. Weeks. You’ve reminded a discouraged writer why she shouldn’t give up.