As a writer, its sometimes hard to remember that there are two sides to the creation of written art. The first, obviously, is the act of producing the art (writing), but the other is equally–if not more–vital than that: the consumption of that art–also known as reading! All writers are readers. If we weren’t, we would have no idea the pleasure it is to immerse oneself in the written word, and the labor of writing would seem all too daunting and far too unrewarding to undertake. Because we know the thrill of losing ourselves between pages at two A.M., it is a labor of love. I must admit, however, that while I am indeed a reader, I have a crippling fear of being a reader AND a writer at the same time.
It’s been about a year since I read my last full book, which just happens to be Stephen King’s Bazaar of Bad Dreams. As I’ve mentioned in some blog post somewhere in forgotten memory, I’m sure I’ve pointed out some of the soundest advice I’ve ever read, which came from this book. To paraphrase King, it’s entirely okay to read and write at the same time. In fact, it’s beneficial; who better to learn the mastery of words from than the masters of words themselves? You’d think that this advice (and coming from Stephen King, no less) would be enough to convince me that I should put a dent in the ever-growing stack of novels I need to read despite working on a novel myself.
The fear I face may be common for young authors–I’m not sure, as I don’t know any personally. It’s the fear that my ideas are not my own. That someone has done “it” (whatever that may be at the time) before, and done it better at that. The fear that someone may someday, as I’m scrolling through miles of uninteresting drivel one night, point out to me on some account or another that my writing is “a lot like ____’s.” That notion is terrifying to me! Imagine, not being skilled enough to communicate your passion, so much so that you must copy the work of another. The fear has driven me from novels like a coward fleeing the darkness.
It haunts me.
I miss reading books. I miss the enjoyment of living a story that’s not my own. It’s such a relief, really, to take pleasure in a story whose ending is not my responsibility. In fact, the hollowness I feel in my brain and my heart, the hollowness that can only be filled by a good story, has finally driven me past the fear of imitation in my writing. I’m sure it also has something to do with my confidence as a writer as well; if enough people say good things about your creation, you eventually start to believe it. I’m happy to report that I’ve finally reached a place where I’m happy enough and content enough with my own style that I can return to reading without absorbing so much of other writers that I’ll feel as if I’ve lost myself.
Naturally, I’ll be chronicling my journey through the embarrassingly overflowing section of novels I’ve meant to have read by now, which, hopefully, will thrill the readers among you. First up is Vonnegut; everyone reads Vonnegut in their twenties, right? I’ve begun Slaughterhouse Five–even reading the preface has been so refreshing that I feel as if I’m a dying man at an oasis. Furthermore, as a writer, reading about writing from another writer
(say that five times fast, huh?) speaks to me on levels far beyond what I’ve expected, and I’m in love once again!
To wrap up, part of what’s led me back to the joy of reading has been hearing from you. The everyday readers who go out of your way to tell me what you thought of The Color of Darkness, for better or for worse. I want to thank you, dear readers, for convincing me to just, well… get over myself. I’m forever in your debt for those kind words!
Until next time!