05 July 2014

Reading and writing

One of my strongest memories of my childhood is me sitting on the floor in a bedroom (or playroom?) with books all around me. Comic books, Clifford the Big Red Dog books, the 'Mr.' and 'Mrs.' books, Dr. Suess books, Serendipity books. I am young - maybe 5 - so I don't attend school yet and I'm bored. I remember picking up each item to read and being able to remember the entire book word for freaking word. It was immensely frustrating because I wanted to read but the only material around was old, worn, and apparently memorized by me. The older me thinks "just ask mom to get some more books" but the very young me was raised in what felt like a stifling and controlling world where asking for things resulted in being shot down. Or worse, ridiculed for even asking.

Once I was old enough I got a library card of my very own. It was made of manila tag paper with my name printed on the front. Books were taken out by stamping the card in the back of the book and the clerk would write my name beside the stamp. From that time on, I have always had a book in my hand. Always. Without fail. When the library closest to me was under renovations, my mom had a rare moment of insight and bought me some books to read in the interim (Piers Anthony's Blue Adept was the first she purchased). This introduced me to science fiction.

If there was a time where I had no book waiting in line for when I finished my current book, I would go to the library and randomly select a book to read. That way I always had one available. And there was a time when I first moved out of my parent's house where I purchased books to read at the local drug store. I spent a huge amount of money on books, and I would never read them more than once as I had the habit of remembering the entire plot.

Each author would write differently and introduce me to a world I could not have conceived of on my own. I loved it! But. But but but. But I would think of things to do like exercise, write my own book, meet new people, take a walk, join anything, or make a friend...after this book. When I finish I'll go out, I'll meet people, I'll join a club, after this book. But then the next book was waiting because I made sure there was never a time when there wasn't a book waiting.

Fast forward thirty years, yes, thirty. I would still be thinking the same thoughts, that after this book I'll start my own book, or find a group to join in real life or on the computer, etc. And then pick up the next book, and the next, and the next. And then something strange happened.

I picked up my next book...and was frustrated by it. So I picked up the next one, and was frustrated some more. The plot was poor (could predict accurately where it was going), the plot was taking too long to get to the point, the characters too shallow to tolerate, poor editing (using an uncommon word like 'fugue' three times on one page), or so many commas that a paragraph is a single sentence. I started to put down books after a measly chapter instead of toughing it out and reading them anyway. I ran out of holds at the library and I didn't seek out new books. I had simply lost patience with reading. I found this odd and instead of fighting it, decided to find other things to do and see what would happen.

I finished my huge puzzle, and then some more puzzles. I watched more movies and tv. And sometimes just watched the sun move across the sky. It was strange, at first I was at a loss of what to do with my time - so much was spent reading! But after a while I found I didn't miss it. 

And then I bought myself a laptop (I use a desktop computer for all my Internet and computer needs) just for writing. Nothing else, just writing. Over the years I've accumulated snippets of possible books, scenes that stood out in my head, ideas for good plots. So I put all these bits and pieces on my new laptop where I could develop them or not. The reasoning for the laptop was from my sister who told me she would take her laptop to a pub and write sometimes and I thought - that's perfect! I was finding that when I sat down in front of my computer, no matter how noble my intentions of writing, I would end up surfing the Internet and looking at all the Cheezburger sites. So the laptop I bought became a typewriter with a screen, nothing more.

And out of the blue I had an entire book in my head waiting to come out. Beginning, middle, and end. So for the first time ever, I wrote out an outline. Well, a series of paragraphs in chronological order giving the details of this book in my head. And then I started to actually write the book. I found myself immersed in this (kind of ridiculous) world I was creating and would actually think of taking a sick day from work so I could write some more. For the record, my last sick day at work (not counting bereavement leave for my parent's deaths) was 01Sept10. I don't write at every opportunity, but I do think of it with excitement every single day. I want to keep the idea of the book close to me for now (I'm oddly afraid someone will steal the idea from me before I can finish it), so for now I'll say it's science fiction (never thought I'd write that genre, haven't read that genre in years, possibly decades) and puts together three or four ideas/concepts that I keep running into.

And then a book I had on hold at the library came available so I picked it up yesterday...and felt like I was betraying the writer in me by reading another author. I flipped through the pages but didn't want to read the words in case they influence what I want to write. Or worse, distract me from writing. I realize now that while reading is good, it's also bad if it's getting in the way of doing things I want to do. Now I find myself thinking: when I finish writing my book I'll read this book, I can put it on hold at the library again. For now I need to return this book to the library before the temptation to open the cover becomes too great. Instead I want to put my efforts into writing, even though reading is an easier choice.


manchester fat acceptance said...

you know, i similarly had to stop reading fiction before i could write it. but it's been so long since i properly read fiction that i imagine i've 'lost the plot' so to speak.

i am happy you've started writing and i can't wait to see the finished product!


Anonymous said...

been a while since I read your blog but so identified with beginning to read a book and knowing the plot and figuring out the characters before the 2nd chapter. guess that's what comes from reading so much.

congratulations on starting to write! a great way to express yourself. Good luck
Aunt Margaret