On Writing: Sweep Someone Else Away

books-current-read

My stack of current reads, along with the novel that swept me furthest away this summer: The Illustrated Man.

One piece of advice seasoned and successful writers like to give to fellow writers is “Read. A lot.”

Read?

Hold on there. I’m a writer. Why should I spend my precious, limited time on reading? I want to WRITE, for crying out loud, so that people will have something to read by ME!

Well, Writer, here’s a quote by author Stephen King that should clear things up:

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot … reading is the creative center of a writer’s life … you cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.

(Ah, Stephen. I’ll never read your scary books, but you sure say some great things about the writing life.)

I spent a good amount of time this summer reading for pleasure.

Often, after I closed the page of a particularly wonderful book, I thought to myself, “Darla, the world doesn’t need another author, another novel, another word. It already has enough great books written by great writers. You just read one. Now, get out of the way.”

Then I’d snap out of it, laugh at myself, and think about how the author who earned my envy probably had the same thought when he read a particularly wonderful book.

My goal is not to be the best writer.

My goal is to give my best as a writer.

When I focus on this, there’s no pressure of competition. There’s only disappointment or satisfaction in my work, and both of these are under my control.

I was swept away by 14 books this summer:

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Children and dogs. Autobiographies and classics. Science fiction and fantasy. Lifted into heaven and dragged through an earthly hell.

Swept away by a story — all for the writer to provide, and all for the reader to experience and enjoy.

Yes, Stephen. I shall read.

Darla McDavid

I'm Darla, a writer of stories about family, friends, goodness, and God. I love cats, coffee, gardening, and tall stacks of books. Click here to subscribe to my blog. You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram. In my other life, I'm an administrative professional, a Sunday School teacher for preschoolers, and the proud mother of Dan.

10 Comments Write a comment

  1. So MANY (good) books! So little time to read them all….and at thls point “remember all the facts within them for instant recall.”

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    • We have a well-stocked public library here in SB. Plus I work at a school, so I can grab a children’s book at any time. I read a few of those this summer and got carried back to my youth.

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  2. Years ago, an older friend who had been an journalist and then became a successful short story and memoir writer, gave me this valuable reading/writing advice: For every hour you write, you should also read for at least 20 minutes…to refill the well, prime the pump, “model” excellent writing styles, etc. I haven’t always followed her formula exactly, but I do know that after I’ve had a busy writing week, the best thing I can do is settle down and spend hours reading good fiction and nonfiction. It does revive me!
    And when I don’t have busy writing weeks, or when I feel dry for writing ideas or enthusiasm, reading often is the solution.
    Excellent post, Darla.

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    • I spent one of my vacation days in July reading for the entire day. Morning to bedtime. On the couch, in the backyard, and finally in bed until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. Loved it.

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  3. My “too read” list is daunting…but I love that it’s long! I love a good book. Well written post. I just read my first Stephen King novel this summer 11/22/63. It wasn’t scary at all, it was a time travel adventure that sucked me in. The man can definitely write. I like your statement about giving your best instead of striving to be the best. Such a great distinction. Many blessings to you Darla as you move forward :-).

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  4. I found your blog via Marylin Warner – I love your statement about doing your best as a writer. As in life, I struggle with perfectionism vs. worthlessness and I know that there’s someplace in between that’s OK to be. Thanks for the reminder, Darla!

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