While cleaning up my desk at work today, I found a notebook where I’d jotted the following down, about halfway through 2011:
Most days, I read for at least six hours. Right now, it’s “The Confessions of St. Augustine” for 45 minutes on the way to work, then, once at work, a mixture of environmental reports, Facebook statuses, and my favorite blogs. Some days I’ll read for the 45-minute ride home. If I’m in a particularly good book, I’ll read through dinner. Then there’s my 5 minutes of Bible reading per day, which usually turns into one 40-minute reading a week. And all the incidentals! I can’t see words and not read them. Street signs, URLs, papers scattered about my desk. I’m always reading. But in the past year and a half, I feel like I’ve forgotten that I went to school for seven and a half years to learn to write.
Sure I read nearly as much as now, especially in college. But in college I read for homework and the homework was writing. I read “Pride and Prejudice” so I could write about the importance Mr. Bennett plays in the plot and character development. I read Billy Collins and Mary Oliver to whet my appetite for modern poetry–and then to write an analysis or imitation of it. I read chapters in my science text books to answer the questions at the end. I read books, then essays about the books, and I wrote and analysed. Poetry was my first love, then analytical writing, then autobiography, then fiction, then journalism.
At first I was thrilled to graduate and be away from the confines of required reading. But before I even graduated I’d made a list of “books I should have been required to read.” I added to it books I’d always wanted to read and in 2010 I finished 59 books, most of which I’d never read before. So far this year I’m at 35. But what I really miss is the analysis.
Sure, I scribble a few pages about my own reactions to the best of the best, but I miss the supplemental research, the time spent re-reading passages to support my claims, and most of all I miss writing. True writing is so much more than the journaling. I try to keep up on, and I feel so out of practice from it. I feel compelled to finalize my thesis for my theoretical dissertation about how good young adult novels are all about the paradigm shift away from fairy tales and into dystopias that challenge the adolescent mind into critical thinking. I feel compelled to write autobiography again. I want to write essays on Harry Potter and Augustine’s confessions. I want to compile a meditation on Scripture.
My 30 poems in 30 days was an appetizer, and good books are like wine to me. I feel like I’ll get drunk on them without the entree of writing at the same time. I should be careful how much I drink in with no output. It’s time to write again.
I love looking back at the thought process that got me to where I am today. Of the things I wanted to do, I am surprised at what I did and did not end up doing. I obviously didn’t write a dissertation for fun. I didn’t write about Augustine or compile a meditation on Scripture. I didn’t write a ton more poems. I definitely didn’t write autobiography (as I mentioned, my life is and always has been boring).
I did write an essay on Harry Potter, which got me onto a MuggleNet Academia podcast as an expert, and the essay is currently under consideration for publication. I also ignored my order of preferences for writing and I wrote fiction. I wrote FanFiction (281,044 words in three years), including one novel and three novellas. I wrote my first original novel. I started my second. I managed to keep a blog running and updated fairly regularly for almost an entire year (that’s this blog, in case that wasn’t obvious). I fell in love with writing again.
Not only that, but more than 400,000 words of fiction later, I know I’m a better writer. I’ve learned so much about telling stories, and now I never want to stop. I’m so glad I sat down more than three years ago and made that decision to write again. My life would be so different if I hadn’t.