Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Work, Work, Work, I Keep Telling Myself

By JC Lynne

David Sharp offered us some great advice last month. It does us good to hear it repeated. Effective frequency or some such thing. It's advice we've heard from Stephen King, Annie Dillard, Phillip Pullman, and Erasmus to name a few. Writers must be readers.

I Culled Mine Down to Essentials.

Yes, I'm sure your shelves hold some of the same writing books found on mine. As writers, we never stop working to improve our craft. Just the other day, Kristin Owens dropped the title of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression. 

Oh yeah, it's in my Amazon shopping cart. Some books I must hold in my hand rather than have on my tablet. 

I can devote time to reading craft books with ease. Research proves no impediment to my reading efforts. It's the devoting time to reading with the pure intention of reading that kills me every time. Even if the book is essentially homework (interesting tidbit: agents give homework).

Like most of you, I grew up a passionate reader who spent hours devouring the shelves at the library. I've read so many books I've found myself reading one eerily familiar and realized halfway through I read it already. 

Yet now, writing my mostly full-time gig, it's a herculean feat to stop and read a book. 

Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them. 

-Lemony Snicket

I can binge Netflix and fold laundry or empty the dishwasher. Cleaning requires the music to be perilously high in decibels. Yes, yes, I've been tempted to tap the audiobook. And sometimes, I can listen while I cook or pull weeds, but my eyes trail toward the text. 

Reading is a uniquely self-indulgent act. 

If you sit, book or tablet open, focused on the page it's impossible to accomplish anything else. In my job as a writer, I must devote hours to putting words on the page with little or no external distraction. It seems sinful to sit and do nothing but read.

That said, I've made an hour appointment each day to spend with a slew of mysteries (I have fifty pages of a murder mystery due) to prime my brain in the pacing and style. Okay, it's a little bit homework, but it's also a return to what made me a writer. 

I know what I'm reading at the moment. 

Two NPR recommended reads:

Meddling Kids: A Novel

Spoonbenders: A Novel

Mark Stevens recommended I read (in addition to about five other books):

Under The Harrow

Our own Laura Mahal recommended I read: 

Ashley Bell

What's in YOUR wallet?


Ronda Simmons said...

You're absolutely right, JC. As my (I wish!) friend, Stephen King said, "If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write." These days I'm making my way through Chuck Wendig's Blackbird series. I'm learning a lot about horror. Maybe more than I can handle . . .

Patricia Stoltey said...

I'm reading the advance review copy of Shannon Baker's second Kate Fox mystery, Dark Signal. The stack of books in my bookcase and on the coffee table includes library books as well as books purchased--and there's everything including mysteries, thrillers, mainstream novels, nonfiction, and on and on...

JC Lynne said...

Pat, I was also a book addict. For many years, I collected books at the grocery store, at the airport, and yes, at the bookstore (it really used to be a thing). All sat in a pile and even as I read some, I would collect more.

A few years ago, I entered them all into GoodReads with their bar code app and donated them (except for a few FAVORITES). Between the hubby and I, we donated almost 2000 books. Can you believe it?

I'm still a book hound. It's just easier to drop them onto my tablet and they don't glare at me angry with neglect.

Ronda, I think Stephen King would fit in nicely around here. He plays in a rock band, come on. I have Chuck's Atlanta Burns in my queue, and I think we can happily call him casual acquaintance.

David Sharp said...

Ooh! I see The Princess Bride on your shelf there. One of the greatest books I've ever read. And I haven't gotten to The View from the Cheep Seats, but it's absolutely on my list. I'm reading an off-the-beaten-path find called Four Color Bleed as well as A Man Called Ove.

JC Lynne said...

David, don't get me started on my desert island must-haves! A Man Called Ove is on my list, though I'm usually a book prior to film person, I've been tempted by the film version. His My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry has been in my queue for a year.

I'm a sucker for Swedish storytelling, whether it be creepy (Wallander) or funny (Schultze Gets The Blues, oops that's German). Also grumpy, old neighbors finding their hearts again, who doesn't love that? St. Vincent, cuz Bill Murray.

I need two lives. One to do nothing but read and one to do most nothing but write.

P.S. I missed the perfect opportunity to give you those stinkin' books!

Laura Mahal said...

I like the idea of sharing craft books. Our critique group pools resources, so none of us end up with overloaded shelves. (Well . . . that's the theory, anyway.) I'm not generally a huge Dean Koontz fan, but I was about to undertake my first Sci Fi / thriller copyediting project and needed to research the genre. Ashley was superbly edited--down to the last em-dash and four-dot ellipsis. (Yes, there is such a thing!) Since I'm in the throes of intense research, a friend gave me a book of poems: Love Her Wild. I can read one when I'm taking a short break. The gift-giver underlined passages and even added artwork. She told me it was an interactive project, and I was to "write back" in the margins. I gasp to ink up a book (egads) but I'm drawn in to pause, read a poem, and remember there are things in this world besides our often all-consuming writing passions.

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