Thursday 9 January 2014

READ! Ye eejit.

"If you're not reading, you're not writing." Ian McDonald

The award-winning science fiction word-slinger (and fellow contributor to BELFAST NOIR) said that to me in 2006. He was kind enough to act as a writing mentor for six weeks (organised through the now disbanded Creative Writers Network) and a lot of what he said stuck with me. But the above is something I tend to forget on a regular basis. I'm hoping that the act of writing this blog post will make it easier to remember.

Sometimes I get stressed by a lack of progress in a project. I'm not a lot of fun to live with when that happens. And not much use. EVERYTHING is a drain on my time and creative energy, in my mind. Sometimes I even think, I don't have time to read, for feck's sake.

That's a mistake, every time.

For this writer, reading is motivation, inspiration and a bunch of other -ations. I feel like my voice and style is pretty much nailed down so I don't worry about aping better writers or paying too much of an homage to a favourite novel.

Also, it's part of my job now.

When I worked full-time in an office (for 14 feckin' years!) reading was something I did on my breaks. An escape from spreadsheets. Then, as time got tighter, I'd substitute a reading break for a bit of writing or internet research (AKA procrastination). Time to read became a luxury rather than a necessity. Now it's an unavoidable requirement for my PhD. My brain hasn't quite caught up with the fact that I enjoy the work that I'm doing now.

So, even if I feel like I'm slacking, I need to read every day. Which is why I've decided to track my progress on this blog. It'll keep me honest. Plus it'd be nice to know with absolute certainty how many books I read in 2014. My target this year is 100 books. Seems doable, but I'm only on book no.2. Need to get a shuffle on. So, an hour of writing then an hour of reading before lunch.

Thinking of changing my middle name to Lucky.


Dana King said...

I find the deeper I'm involved in a writing project, the more i read. Not because I feel I have to; I just want to.

Gerard Brennan said...

You're lucky, Dana. I'm still trying to train my body to want things that are good for me.


seana graham said...

When my sister embarked on her MFA program, she called me and said, I've just realized two things: I hate reading and I hate writing.

I don't think she stayed there, but there is nothing like making a book a requirement to take the fun out of it.

Gerard Brennan said...

Aw, makes me a bit glum to think of somebody being put off reading through education. There are books out there for everybody, but misguided (and sometimes plain lazy) teachers don't try to match the right book with the right reader. There is no effective 'one size fits all' approach to education.

I sense a rant coming on here... I'll save it for a future blog post.


seana graham said...

I'll look forward to it. But really I have a whole theory about the pleasures of illicit reading--when I was in college especially, it was always the book I wasn't supposed to be reading that was intriguing. Stayed up all night reading Pride and Prejudice instead of studying for some final or other. Immense, guilty pleasure that I still remember.

Gerard Brennan said...

Rebellion through reading... I can get on board with that.