Reading About Writing

This has been a crazy reading year for me. Mostly because I haven’t read one book so far. I’ve read a lot of stuff: blogs, magazines, pieces and parts of several books. But I haven’t completed one novel. My book shelves are overflowing with books that I am dying to read. Alas, there is just not enough time to do it all.

Bryon used to tease me that I’d never get through all the books I have accumulated. I told him it was okay, it only secured my life expectancy. I have my whole life. I just can’t die until I run out of books. I constantly hedge that plan by adding to the pile.

Not reading has caused me some stress. I not only feel like I want to read, but I need to read. Reading is a stress reliever for me. Since I can only do one thing at a time, like all the rest of you, I am giving myself permission not to read fiction for now.

I have made it less than a third of the way through my edits of Reap ‘Em & Weep, and I want that sucker firmed up and ready to roll before the June 23, 2012 ORA Conference so I can pitch it to the agents who will be there. It’s scary thinking of sending it out into the world. I vacillate between thinking it’s crap and thinking it’s gold. It’s likely somewhere in the middle of that. Besides, it’s not like it’s the last and only thing I can ever write. It’s just that it’s the first thing I’ve ever written.

I can’t tell you how many author bios and blogs I’ve read pointing out that their first published novel was actually their third novel, or fifth or {shudder} more. In my head, I know this to be true. But none of us would ever play the lottery if we really believed there was absolutely no chance of winning right? Writing this novel is much the same I think. Probably about the same odds too.

Just writing this blog every day takes up a lot of the time I could be using to read. I’m not complaining. I think both are equally important. Each post is like a little mini writing exercise for me. This process is making my writing muscles stronger. (I heard that snigger, you just found another typo didn’t you?)

The solution came to me Monday as I got to spend a few stolen hours upstairs in the writing cave. I  decided I’m going to concentrate on reading about writing. I have a lot of books on writing as you can see on my shelf above. I’ve completed a few of them, read little bits and pieces of several more, and barely cracked the spine of most of them. I figure there is enough there for a Niangua style MFA* program. Think the Iowa Writers’ Workshop goes redneck.

Now that I’ve actually completed something, I’m finding these books make a lot more sense to me. They seem more applicable. We can prepare forever for a challenge or a job but getting down and doing the thing is really the education. In my entire college career, the only useful and memorable piece of advice I learned was from my English professor, Carter Cramer. Dr. Cramer told me to “Beg, borrow and steal everything I could” in preparation for teaching.

Boy, oh boy was he right.

But that was an expensive lesson. Let’s hope this one yields more fruit.

*Master of Fine Arts


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