Read everything. Read what you like. Life is too short for bad books, so if the author doesn’t grab you in the first 2500 words, they weren’t writing for you. That’s okay. There are plenty more to choose from. Read to see how other writers get the job done. Admire their words and celebrate for them. Pick out the hidden bits like they are diamonds in a coal mine. You know how you sometimes insert things into a story that are just for you? So do they.
If you want to read something new, don’t give up because it’s hard. I love ‘Ulysses’ and read it every few years – I read at least an episode every June 16th, because, well, it’s June 16th. If you don’t know why, that’s fine. Because there are dates from books that appeal to you, too. I couldn’t tell you Harry Potters birthday, but I imagine there are a great many who could. All that aside, I will not recommend ‘Ulysses’ to anyone unless they are looking for a dense, incomprehensible read that requires a second book just to begin to grasp what is going on (‘James Joyce’s Ulysses: A Study by Stuart Gilbert) not to mention two other books to get something of a background. I wouldn’t do that to you any more than I would recommend reading ‘Finnegans Wake’ – which also requires a second book just to kick things off (‘A Skeleton’s Key to Finnegans Wake’) before you go down that rabbit hole of a novel. For the record, I own a copy of Giambattista Vico’s “The New Science” and have read it but don’t pretend to understand it but I do get a sense of how it applies to the ‘thunder’ in ‘Finnegans Wake’, nor do I grasp how each of the thundering translates. But I do love the line ‘riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by commodious vices of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.’ and I will for the rest of my life. Why? Because I love to read and I remember the things I love. Reading does that to you.
Play with words. Play at games. Play at work. Play at home. Play with your kids. Play when you walk, play when you talk. Play, play, play.
It excites the mind and stimulates you. It’s a kind of meditation. You lose track of time and focus on the moment. It humbles you and shows you that sometimes you do take yourself too serious. It grounds you in a way like nothing else can.
I have two silly references for you.
Remember that episode of Friends, where Rachel is avoiding Phoebe in the parts because of the way she runs. Rachel has this measured pace, with the heaving breathing and the panting, while Phoebe runs like a fool, arms flailing, legs splayed. Rachel is embarrassed for Phoebe. Phoebe doesn’t care. She asks Rachel, “Do you remember how you ran when you were a kid? How much fun it was? Why do you run if it makes you unhappy? Why do you have that serious look on your face?” Rachel then proceeds to run like Phoebe and realizes the wisdom of her words – then for comedic effect, she runs into a police horse. But besides that, Phoebe was right. Run like a kid. Run because it’s fun, don’t run because it’s works.
Reference two is an example my son gave me the other day. He plays with abandon. Whole worlds are built and crumble when he plays. And every chance he gets, he wants to share that with me. I get involved as often as I can (which is not as often as I’d like – chores and work tend to get into the way from time to time) and we have epic wars that span the whole house and I find my mind wandering into all of the wonderful things I can have these toys do. I’m not worried about grammar or sentence structure or what someone might think of the ridiculous story being played out in the living room, I just want to have fun. How often can Brainy Smurf be the major domo of a crime organization that includes an enforcer group made up of undead dinosaurs? This does not happen in any work of James Joyce, Umberto Eco or Salman Rushdie that I know of.
Anyway, the updates Reido gave me while I was cleaning the kitchen and making dinner and doing loads of laundry included:
- A unnamed Sith Lord used The Force to compel one HALO Spartan to chop off the arms and head of another HALO Spartan.
- The HALO Spartan then became a Jedi who then used The Force to turn the other HALO Spartan into a Force Zombie so they could get back at the Sith Lord
Am I the only guy who sees a novel right there? And that’s all from playing.
So, I implore you. Just play.
I’ve already said this in another post, but it bears repeating. I write every day. Every day. 500 words minimum. I must admit, it is not always a story, but sometimes it is. It is not always good, so I don’t always share it. It’s not always happy, so I don’t always keep it. But I write. I write because I have to. It’s the monkey on my back.
The more you write, the more you want to share. A compulsion builds in you. And then you end up showing it to someone you love and trust. And that’s the first step. Some don’t get further than that, and that’s okay. Because writing should be done first and foremost for love.
Then you show it to friends. These are the people in your writer’s groups. These are the people you hang out with from time to time. Even people at work. And from here, people sometimes want to see more. Even if it’s 10 or 11 people (like the kind people that follow this blog), you end up doing it for fun.
Finally, once you have shared with the one you love, and then did it with friends for fun, you then have the desire to try and do it for money. This is the hard part. Because there are many more people out there who are already doing it for money and competition is fierce. You may have to settle on never getting paid a dime for what you do, but there is other forms of payment. Recognition from a contest of your peers, a few free copies of a magazine, a complete stranger reading your stuff and saying ‘not bad, not bad at all’. That’s payment. But you have to be prepared the form that payment might take.
But if you don’t write, if you don’t do it every day, you won’t get there. How do you know what to write? Where do you start? Well, you can start with reading something you enjoy….