Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Reading, Revisited

Before I begin tonight's regularly-scheduled blog post, I'd like to point out that I'm participating in the Austen in August reading event at Roof Beam Reader. The link contains details, and all you have to do to sign up is comment on that post. I've signed up to read Persuasion, and to reread Mansfield Park. If I have time, I'll also reread Sense and Sensibility. I had the excellent good fortune of being able to discover Jane Austen's works on my own, rather than in school, so I've always enjoyed her books.

Speaking of reading, I just read The Ultimate David Sedaris Audio Collection (well, okay, I listened to it), and I reviewed each collection within it individually. That took about forever and a day to type up, but I did it. I'm pointing you in that direction because I'm in such shock that I went so long without his brand of humor in my life that I must rectify this situation if the same applies to you.

Clearly, tonight I want to post about reading. I've already done so, in the early days of my blog, but I think it deserves a revisit.

I remember remarking more than once that reviewing every book I read has me looking at books differently. I'm paying more attention to what I can learn from each writer, trying actively to guess the endings, and noting things I didn't think the authors did as well as they could. I joked about leveling up as a writer, and I think I can credit a lot of that to picking out elements I like in books, figuring out what I want to emulate or do better than the author, and analyzing what works.

In theory, I already knew I had to do this, but I hadn't been putting it into practice as well as I have been in the last several months. I don't know if it's because of the blog, the writing group, or just some switch I flipped in my brain, but the passive exercise of reading has been far more helpful in my evolution lately than it's ever been.

Knowing you have to do something and doing it isn't always as easy as getting up off your butt, or sitting down at your computer, or closing down the internet. Sometimes things take a long while to take hold, or you have to keep practicing until it sticks.

If I could reverse engineer how I finally made it stick, I'd teach every new writer how to do it. Alas, all I can do is tell you what a revelation it is, and to keep reading and working on it. After all, if you want to be a writer, I assume you already like to read. So, it's not like learning how to read as a writer is a terrible chore. Are you really going to complain if I tell you your homework is to read as many books as you want, and only the ones you want to?

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