Sunday, April 11, 2010

Musing - the Paradox of Reading and Writing

Usually you become a writer because you love to read. And if you are a writer, you need to read a lot anyway.

But what I find is that when I'm in the throes of a writing project, I become an impatient and inattentive reader. I don't even want to read other books because I want to read the book I'm writing.

This is ironic, because - as I have told so many aspiring writers - writing is NOT reading. When you are reading, you are being taken on a journey by someone who takes care of everything for you. It may feel like you discovered that wonderful little spot on your own, but really, your author planned it all out in advance; every emotion, every discovery.

When you're writing, you have to do all the planning and organizing, and it's tedious work. While you do make discoveries, those discoveries come from your own head, and while they can be satisfying, there are never any surprises. Not really. You can trick yourself into feeling surprised by getting deep into your character, but you also know what's waiting for that character.

And of course, you have to get deep into your character and be surprised (Ooo!! Ah!!) and then you have to do it again (Oo! Ah!) to get the timing right, or check the authenticity (Oo? Oooooo? Eek ah? OOO ah?) and finally again to get it down on paper. And then you do it again to edit it (Oo ah.) And then a few more polishes (Oo yadda yadda...) When you get to Ooo yawn, or Ooo whatever, it's time to set the scene aside, but you still may not be done with being surprised.

It helps to be obsessive compulsive.

I really think that this is the first element that sorts out those who will be writers from those who never get anywhere. It's the first barrier: The experience of writing is not like the experience of reading.

And some people even find, when you are first learning the mechanics of plotting and all that, it ruins the experience of reading. (Although I assure you, this will pass. Once you are fully aware of the mechanics of story, it will recede into the background again.)

Later, though, you will have a different problem that hampers your reading. This is what's plaguing me now. Ideas are way easier to come up with than writing them, so eventually everyone will end up with a backlog of ideas screaming to be written. Anything you read will simply remind you of something you need to write. And I've got YEARS of backlog to deal with right now.

And when you've got this problem, sometimes it turns out that reading is much easier when you make it a low priority. That is, it's easier to read if you've done your due diligence on something of your own first.

So, my reading dare was an utter disaster. I ended up reading less than I would have if I hadn't even tried. So back to the grind: writing first, reading after. I still need to keep away from The Man Who Did Too Much until the semester is over, but I have some decks to clear on other ideas and older stories. So I think I need to spend my time between now and the 8th of May getting the backlog in order.

I will spend the next night or two figuring out the goals, so I can get going.

No comments: