We all know that good readers make good writers. You’ll be more limber, daring, confident and inspired by reading good writing.
A few days ago Kelli at the Zen of Motherhood gave me a Daily Dose award. Despite the family resemblance, she and I are very different, but we always see eye to eye. In the world of no coincidence, her gift was no coincidence. It inspired me to tell you this story.
One summer when my book proposal was stuck in reverse, I lost all drive. After a year of rejections, I wasn’t sure what I had to say anymore and why anyone like me should say it. I was no writer. I had nothing new to contribute. And so I set aside My Writing Failure and took up reading instead. I devoted the summer to reading women fiction writers to see what I could see. I wanted to hear their voices, and how they managed to find one. And when they found a voice how they managed to keep one. I picked one writer at a time and I read every title of theirs at my little public library. Thank heaven for little towns with little libraries. And what I saw was that these great, original, fearless women weren’t contributing anything new. Or at least the stories weren’t new. The point of view was new. They were contributing themselves, their lives, in work after work, as only they could. They were writing from experience, from memory, from sense and scenery so intimate and real that it could only have come from the landscape of their own lives.
I started with the immensely popular and readable Elizabeth Berg, who captures the words, thoughts, and whispers of modern women so transparently. I read Anne Tyler’s many stories of misfits and misfortunes on what seemed to be the same funky street in Baltimore. I read Alice Munro, the Canadian short storyist, capture the vast and humbling spaces of emotional distance. I read others, and then I quit going to the library for a while.
I had read myself back to writing again. And like the authors I’d read, I would write life as I saw it.
So I pass the Daily Dose award (non-pharmaceutical variety) on to Elizabeth, Anne, and Alice. To Willa and May. To Arundhati, Amy, Lisa, Margaret, Eudora and Jane. To Flannery, Tillie, Jhumpa and Louisa May. To Toni, Isabel, Charlotte, and Joyce Carol. To the really good book sitting under your coffee cup.
Lift your cup and fill yourself up with a premium brew. You can’t get enough of the good stuff.