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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Put Your Feet Up!

And read a good book, or a bad one, but just read. Either way, you can learn a lot. I've been in somewhat of a writing rut lately. I spent most of the summer running my kids around, and I was so sure that once they were back in school, my creative juices would start flowing again. Well, school started three weeks ago, and I've been able to squeeze very little juice from that creative fruit. It's got me thinking about what is different now. What was I doing differently back when the words flowed so easily? Well, the first thing that came to mind was reading. During the times when I was knee deep in creativity as far as my writing goes, I was also reading a lot. In fact, I was reading for at least an hour a day. Lately, I've only been reading for ten to fifteen minutes, and it's right before I go to bed. Sometimes, I'm so tired that I can hardly keep my eyes open, and I have to reread the same thing the next night. So, I'm making a commitment to start reading more again. And why do I think reading is so important? Well for one thing, it can show me what works and what doesn't. If I'm really drawn into a book, I can reflect back on what drew me in and apply that to my own writing. If I'm bored to tears, I can pay attention to what isn't working for me and avoid doing it in my own writing. I once heard that the six rules to writing were read, read, read, write, write, write. I'm seeing, now, that it is true. What about you? How does reading inspire you? And what books or authors have you been most inspired by?

46 comments:

quixotic said...

Oooh, I totally agree. Reading does spark the creative juices. When I am in a writing phaze I do quite a bit of reading. I am currently reading Laura Adrian.

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

I just wrote about this today on my blog, how one author's clever use of colors in his descriptions has made my brain so happy. Reading inspires me like few other things. Great post!
~ Wendy

Heather Sunseri said...

Hey, Susan! I guess I've been in a reading rut lately. I've been writing more, and reading less. I need to balance that out. I'll be coming back to see what people are reading. I have When Heaven Weeps by Ted Dekker right now, but I've only read the first chapter or two.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Hey, Susan! I know that reading definitely helps me write. Sometimes I go in these phases where all I do is read (usually on a weekend; I don't have a family to take care of, so that frees a bit more time). Stories inspire stories, I've found. Last week was like that for me. I finished re-reading Harry Potter and it was incredible. When I closed the final book on Friday afternoon, I just wanted to sit and savor it for hours. Then I wanted to pull out my notebook and write. It triggered something in my mind, and now I have ideas. I hope the same happens for you!

Strange Fiction said...

If I don't read everyday, I'm just not okay! I've been struggling lately though, starting to analyze everything and it's taking away the enjoyment of reading. I'm not sure I can credit any specific authors for inspiring me, I never know what's going to grab me!

Natalie Bahm said...

I think you get a little reading and writing pass for the first couple weeks of school :) Life is crazy with kids sometimes. One way that I keep "reading," even if I don't seem to have any time in my day to sit down with a book, is to listen to books on CD. I know many people would say this isn't really reading but I still get a lot out of it, and it's so much easier to listen in the car while I'm running errands or listen in the kitchen while I'm doing dishes. I love to sit down and really read a book, but it's a lot harder to work into my day.

Rae said...

I agree about reading. I generally read at least one book a week, sometimes two. Lately though, I seem to be reading more blogs than books. I am going to the library today. I love reading the blogs I follow, but following a good plot in a story is something I really enjoy.

FictionGroupie said...

I agree, reading definitely goes hand and hand with my creative flow. Reading a book gets my imagination working and kicks that lazy muse in the tush.

Mandy said...

Great post! I totally agree that reading fuels creativity. When I'm in a slump I always pick up a book. Sometimes I finish, sometimes I don't, but it always does the trick!

kavita said...

I think you are right..reading does help us in many ways...i am not a writer but used to read a lot pre-kids,now i buy books but hardly get time to read as much as i would have loved to.It keeps me motivated,charges me with positive thoughts,opens up a lot of unexplored areas....i am a better person when i am reading a lot.Thanks for this wonderful reminder that books are our best friends.

K. M. Walton said...

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo...just blogged about it actually.

It is, hands down, the most inspiring book I've ever read (coming from it as a writer, that is).

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Reading and a watching good movies inspire me to write more too. It takes a while to get back into a routine after a break like summer I find. I'm easing back into writing with proposal stuff and clean-up stuff. Maybe try something small to do at first to get your juices flowing again, much less scary than thinking novel length writing. At least it is to me.

strugglingwriter said...

"I've only been reading for ten to fifteen minutes, and it's right before I go to bed." - this is my only reading time usually. That's why it takes me a long time to read a novel.

I was having a dry spell too and also realized that reading would help my creativity. It has done wonders. I've been reading Order of the Phoenix and have been loving it. I'll probably write a blog post about that today.

Dominique said...

Reading definitely helps with the creativity. Reading = thinking = having weird thoughts = having Shiny New Ideas = Writing.
It's a vicious cycle. :D

Stephanie Faris said...

I generally am targeting a certain publisher with whatever I'm writing, so I try to read everything I can in that publisher's line while writing. It keeps me on track. Unfortunately, I still love to read chick lit and nobody's really looking for that anymore...so I end up reading a lot of that, even in the publishers I'm targeting!

Bane of Anubis said...

I actually think reading can be detrimental to the writing process in some facets b/c you tend to pinball off pre-existing ideas -- this isn't always bad, particularly in a fad-driven industry -- but it can hurt the author's inner voice, IMO.

I tend to find that my best ideas just come to me (unfortunately, not in dreams -- those are just a bit too weird).

Cindy said...

Reading most definitely inspires me! I also love seeing what works and what doesn't. It's also helpful if you get in a rut. There are times when I need inspiration to start a story and I can get it from books. Or when I need motivation to continue a story, and I get that it from books.

Stephanie said...

Hi Susan-
Reading that's hard sometimes I find too! I am focused on writing and breathing and dinner that reading sometimes gets the bums rush in my life.
This fall I am going to try to find a way to read more too. Thanks for sharing that you too struggle with it too. It's nice to know I am not alone.
xo

K.M. Weiland said...

I never *not* read, so I've never had to find out how my muse would react to the lack of brain fuel. But I am a firm believer in learning by osmosis and studying to show ourselves approved. Is reading a guilty pleasure? Absolutely. But it's also a necessity if I want to better myself in my craft. Nothing in, nothing out. I've never understood people who write but never read. If we have to rely only on our brains, without ever feeding them something new - how can we expect to produce something someone else will find worth reading?

Carolyn V. said...

I need to start reading more. I just picked up The Gateway to Foo. The first chapter was amazing. (See...I've gotta read more.) =)

Kathy said...

Yes, I agree. Reading does help me with my writing.

Sometimes if I'm short on time I read magazine articles. Even newspaper articles. Novels take so much longer, it's hard to commit to all those pages.

I'm going to start reading Summer Sisters pretty soon. Thanks for the reminder!

L. T. Host said...

I miss reading :( I am verrrrrry slooooooowly re-reading the HP series right now because it's "safe"--- ie, I won't accidentally be influenced by it to the point where something not mine winds up in my work. I have nightmares about accidentally plagiarizing some other author that was really influential to me-- Mercedes Lackey, Piers Anthony, Terry Brooks. So I stay away from my favorites and plod on through my own MS, hoping that it will be finished and ready to query in a couple weeks in time for my birthday and the B&N gift cards I've asked for :)

Chelle Sandell said...

I've always read the new releases from the line I target, but I've recently decided to expand my borders and joined a book club called Book End Babes. One of our books this month is Burn by Linda Howard.

Patti said...

I think reading reminds me of why I started writing in the first place and that's all the inspiration I need sometimes. For the first time in a long time I took a morning to finish a book. I didn't worry about laundry, cleaning or exercising. I just read and it was great.

Beth said...

LOVE reading! I feel like I almost forgot HOW to read after I had my kids. They're out of the infant stage, so I'm falling in love with my books all over again (sigh). I'm reading a lot of Fantasy lately...vampires, fairies, don't ask me why...I guess I could blame Twilight. I take notes and underline in my books when I see something the author did that I like.

Robyn Campbell said...

What a GREAT post! I'm trying to read some YA right now. Because I am writing a YA. My first one. I usually write MG and picture books. Poetry too. So this is a new venture for me.

I have to say that besides Seuss my inspiration comes from Louisa May Alcott and Anna Sewell. Alcott because she wrote for fourteen hours a day and hardly ate when writing. Amazing! And Sewell because she wrote a book originally intended for vets and horse owners and that book became one of the most widely read novels in history.

Have a reading day Susan. Oh did you know they are taking The Reading Rainbow off television? Sad! :)

Solvang Sherrie said...

I totally agree that reading can spark creativity. My favorite authors, the ones I go back and study, are Suzanne Collins, Rick Riordan, J.K. Rowling and E.D. Baker.

Suzanne said...

Oh, my.

I wish I had more time I would be reading ALL the time. I have a pile of books staring at me next to my bed this very second. Top of my list is the a compilation of short stories by Stephen King because I am trying to streamline my writing and he is "king" of that.

Arg. want to read it now. Work stinks.

Lori said...

I am most inspired by reading about the lives of artists. I feel that I want to be them and that puts in in the zone.

Nancy said...

Boy, just sitting and reading is my favorite thing to do. I ought to be a great writer, right? Who inspires me? Sharon Creech. She writes books that just start in and go on and end. They seem so simple that it's hard to believe anyone labored over them. I don't like books that have sections I have to plow through.

Carrie Harris said...

I'm the same way! My reading and writing go hand in hand; if I slack on one, the other tends to follow suit.

Since I write YA comedy, my best inspiration comes from the silly side of lit: Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and Jasper Fforde.

Amy Tate said...

Ugh. I relate. Sometimes when I get in a real rut, it helps to get lost in a movie, or even a walk through the mall helps to release my brain from the pressure of having to create.

Regina Milton said...

Your post is very timely for me. I was just trying to justify budgeting for a bunch more books. It really does help me write though; even if I read a bad one, like you said.

Jody Hedlund said...

That's a great plan! Often when I read I get really motivated to write something as good or better than what I'm reading! Not sure if that actually happens, but at least it spurs me on!

Jennifer Major said...

I try to read similar types of books. For instance, I've been enjoying The Gossip Girl books. Lame? Yes it is. But it is helping me create my rich girl character! Sometimes, I need a lot of help :)

Kelly H-Y said...

That is such a great point ... and, I think it has to be book reading, not just magazines, etc., that inspire me the most!

Tabitha Bird said...

Very true. When I am reading I am often inspired to go write. Reading is really a must for writers. I think it was Stephen King who said, "If you don't have time to read, then you really don't have time to write." Something like that anyway.

storyqueen said...

I try not to read anything close to what I am working on when I have a project at hand. (Makes me feel like a lame-o writer.)

Lately, I have been focusing on style rather than storyline in the books I've read.

Extremely fascinating.

Shelley

Weronika Janczuk said...

I picked up Jennifer Weiner's GOOD IN BED from the library yesterday (after Sara had sent me a link to her website--it has some good writing-related info), and it's inspired me to write. S

o, yeah, I guess it happens (inspiration from reading), but what I usually need is a concrete way to approach a piece of writing (i.e., an outline).

Another ggggreat post. Thanks, Susan!

Lily said...

It's funny, but I write nothing like my author heroes. Does this mean my style won't sell? Hmm... LOL

Girl in My Own World said...

I totally agree with this! Totally! I also feel the same way about movies too! Anyhow, reading the works of other can enrich your writing so much and it does show you what works and what does not. Some of my favorites include: Sophie Kinsella, Wally Lamb, Mary Higgins Clark, Walter Mosley, Mary Monroe, Norma Jarrett...etc. I am a bit of a book nerd. :o)

I too, just picked up a copy of Jennifer Weiner's Good In Bed - how funny is that! I saww it Target and read the summary and went straight to the library today. I hope that you enjoy it Weronika! :o)

Shelli said...

oh gosh - me too! i need to read but i want to write if i get that time.

Janna Qualman said...

Just exactly how you said: it shows me what works and what doesn't - and maybe more importantly, how that applies to my particular voice.

Off to read! :)

Jenn Johansson said...

Reading is so, so, so important. One of the authors that has helped me the most is Dan Wells and his "I am not a serial killer" YA series. It is awesomely strange and it makes me look at light and darkness in an entirely new way. It's been amazing for my writing. :)

Girl Meets Gun said...

This is a good one...because seriously, how many people get in a writing rut, but then as soon as they pick up a book and start reading, they have ten million ideas in their heads? It's a great feeling! You almost can't get every idea out fast enough!

I try to read a little bit of everything. I've been stuck on the same novel for a couple weeks because I haven't felt up to reading or writing, but usually I can finish three or four novels in a week. It always gets me going on my writing.

I'm writing two separate novels write now- fiction literature, and YA- so it's a toss up. But I'm reading Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen, and I'm looking into finding another book in lit to read...I got into Nicholas Sparks about a month ago, and I love Jane Green...so we'll see who wins my attention next. Good advice!

And thanks for the wishes...I'm hoping for a great blog idea tomorrow. :)

Leah Rubin said...

Yep, reading is what it's all about. Except for relationships and community and all that other wonderful stuff in life. But reading's waaaaaay ahead of almost everything else.

Read "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett-- it's her first novel, and it was SO compelling!