Confessions of a Writing Reader

I must confess…I love to read about writing more than I love to write.

Okay, wait, that’s not completely true. No, never mind. It is. What I mean to say is that I love reading great articles about how to write as much as I actually do the process, which means that I have spent enormous amounts of writing time reading articles like, Bring Your Characters to Life, How to Create Your Story Outline, or Tips on Getting Your Novel Published, or What’s the Best Point of View for Your Story, How to Create Riveting Action…You get the picture?

This past weekend we were in Barnes & Noble. I first went to the magazine shelves, the writing section, and breezed through every writer and poetry magazine while sitting in the window seat with my Hazlenut Frap. That done, I selected two magazines and headed for the back of the store where the reference and writing section was. I grabbed one of those step stools, not for stepping, but for my bum, which I purposefully placed in front of the section of writing books. I hauled out all the titles that caught my eye. A lot of the books I’d seen before, of course, and had them dutifully noted on the notes page of my iPhone for further purchasing opportunities. There were three stacks of books at my feet, or sideways on the shelves sticking out, waiting my final approval. The lady who works in the store (who’s actually a man transformed into a woman, I complimented her shoes, which were pretty cool looking black heels, which made me wonder how he, I mean she, walked all day in them) leaned over and asked me if I wanted a book cart to get to the register. We laughed. I asked, How big is your cart?

About two hours later my dear husband tracked me down. He knew where to look by now. I had narrowed my selections down to ten, and I was adding up the ultimate charge to the credit card with the phone’s calculator, when he said, “You’re buying all of those? You have a three book shelves full of writing books at home.”  Ah, yes, a voice of reason. One of the perks of being married. And when exactly would I find the time to read all these books?  So I ended up with one magazine.

*!*

I read and re-read writing articles. I keep all my Writers Digests and The Writer magazines. My collection stretches back to 1989. I’ve used highlighters and ink pens of various shades to underline passages. Page upon page are tattooed with ink arrows at paragraphs to look at again, some with stars next to them to spark my eye when I return, or exclamation marks near a quote to keep my writing ambition up to speed.

It is a painstaking process – all this reading about writing that one simply has to do. I could make a career out of it (oh, if someone would only pay me to read!) and the reading and noting of articles I could easily fill and replace a day of actual writing work.

So, is anything wrong with me? Can anyone relate to this? Hell, you’re doing it now, reading this article about writing, so I guess part of you can relate.

So how does one get some efficient, publishable writing done when one likes to read about it more than actually doing said writing? By setting a time limit. One half hour of article – if I feel the urge – then get writing! A prompt, a short piece, or into the novel in progress.

I’ve come to limit my reading about writing time with great practicality. It hasn’t been easy. This means avoiding news stands, limiting online searches (especially tough since I love so many great writer’s websites, a list I’ll create in a later post) and filing away my magazines for the time being.

Now I believe that I can finally write more than I read about it. I do keep one well underlined, starred, and exclamation pointed magazine around as an idea sparkler. I use articles for writing prompts and exercises to keep my writer’s spirit from falling off the pyramid. This magazine presently is The Writer’s Guide to Creativity, a Writer’s Digest supplement, issued back in November 2011. And one precious, awesome, book I can’t get enough of on manuscript revision, called Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon.

Manuscript Makeover delves not only into revision techniques, which I desperately need, but also helps with my current novel’s inspiration, helps me to think of my story in new insightful ways, and puts creativity at its peak, both in writing first drafts, and revising stories as a whole.

So there is my confession.

I’m still a writing reader. I’ve taken a step program to free myself for the loss of precious writing time due to this reading addiction. I now am revising a novel for publication, and writing two different shorter stories for this sweet blog I started. And I can safely stay away from my shelves of books and magazines…

I think…

 

I fell passionately in love with this post written in December 2009 on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency:  Letters to Santa written by Shakespeare Characters, by Caroline Bicks and Michelle Ephraim.  Here’s a sample:

Dear Santa:

How does my lord? I am fine. I believe ’tis possible you did not receive my wish list last year, or that it fell into unsavory hands and was rudely tampered with before reaching you, as all you brought me was a chastity belt and some granny underpants. I pray that this one flies to you untainted since this year hath really sucked. I wish for the following:

— He’s Just Not That Into You (book and DVD)

— “All About Me” Lock and Key Diary

— National Geographic Flower and Leaf Pressing Kit

— Coastal Deluxe Automatic Inflatable Life Vest

Fingers crossed,
Ophelia

Read more letters here.