My husband discovered me reading (again) the other day. Amused, he pointed down at the notebook on my lap. “You doing a book report?”
I smiled and mused to myself that fellow writers know why I lug a notebook with me along with the book I’m currently reading. I’m not doing a book report, but strong writers have a tendency to bring out the best in my writing. Good books are excellent at pointing out holes in my own stories. When I’m inspired by a book I’m reading, I never want to be caught without a pen when the fresh idea hits or a character arc solidifies. This is also why I keep a notepad near my bed at night, and I’m seriously thinking it’s time to leave a pen and paper outside the shower.
Ideas are like prairie dogs, you never can predict when they’ll pop up. (I recently read somewhere that the language of the prairie dog is more advanced than any other animal language that’s been decoded.) I consider it part of my job to pay attention. Not only to the world around me, but the world within books. This includes everything from pacing to sentence structure to identifying something akin to a musical rhythm in the paragraphs.
Does this steal the joy from reading?
Absolutely not. Most of the time I’m doing these things without even realizing it. Like training a muscle, I started this practice years ago and it felt a little uncomfortable initially. Dissecting books did feel a little like writing a book report in the beginning. But now I hardly notice I’m doing it. I still read for enjoyment, entertainment, and to learn. I’m always pleasantly surprised when book starts to work its magic, when the sentences stir something in my brain and a lock is unhinged, a new idea freed.
This process of transference, reading good writing in order to produce good writing is one of the unpredictable thrills of writing. I never know when I’m going to stumble upon brilliant writing. Oh, but when I do! I want to savor every word.
Two books worth mentioning:
Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’veLoved by Kate Bowler. Absolutely loved this book. I connected with this author’s viewpoint on so many levels. Highly recommend this read!
The Lightkeeper’s Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol. Currently reading. I’m getting so much from this one. Character development is fantastic. Pacing and building suspense on point. Can’t wait to read more!