Writing Much, Despite Reading Struggles

Fragonard painting of woman reading

(painted by Jean-Honoré Fragonard)

Over the past couple of years, I’ve read many fellow authors’ declarations of being avid readers when they were children. That they would sneak a book under their covers and get in another few precious moments of reading exciting books before their parents would remind them to go to sleep.

Others would talk about remembering reading at a very early age and loving it throughout their childhood into their adult years. This dedication and love of reading books led them to write books themselves. And this seems to make a whole lot of sense. You read a lot, you get ideas, and you naturally write with these inspirational stories having primed the creative pump in your imaginative brain.

But this wasn’t my experience.

At times I feel both sad and amazed that my writing journey is not the usual, logical path of my fellow writers. I’m an anomaly of sorts. I truly believe it.

I grew up hating to read. As early as I can remember, I had little interest in books, other than to look at the colorful pictures and at times, listen to my dad or a teacher read a story to me and my fellow students.

young girl reading book

Reading had been a struggle for me, a lot of hard work. By mid grade school age, it was discovered I had reading comprehension problems. When my dad wasn’t away on a case (he was a lawyer and a judge in the Air Force), he’d spend an hour or so a night sitting with me on the couch, listening to me read aloud one of the classics in large, vivid books with plenty of pictures, but with age-appropriate, tough words.

I remember agonizing through reading each sentence. It was so laborious–a tremendous mental work akin to the hard, physical work of pushing a heavy rock up a steep hill. But Dad kept encouraging me, guiding me along, patiently working with me for about three years (around fourth to sixth grade).

I went into junior high school still struggling to a certain extent, with little interest in reading, let alone learning. This was my academic path throughout high school, as well.

But something had changed. I did read a few assigned books in my English literature class in eleventh grade, and when I a sophomore, I fell in love with the North & South TV mini-series and ended up reading the first two books in the series. Also, when I was eighteen and nineteen, I read the whole eight-volume series of the Kent Family Chronicles (both series written by John Jakes).

I think, perhaps, watching TV and movies helped me create my stories in lieu of reading. I’ve always been a visual learner.

As for gaining an interest in learning, it wasn’t until I went to business college a couple of years after graduating high school, that I was ready to learn and wanted to learn.

But here’s the unbelievable part of my journey.

Throughout all of my struggles with reading, I wrote all the time with little effort, from second grade all the way through my teens and early twenties before putting it aside when I married and had children.

As you know, if you read any of my older blog posts, I returned to writing in 2014, and it felt so good to be back where I believe I belonged.

How could a child, a young girl, a woman, write stories with plots, decent sentence structures, spelling, some stories over a hundred pages in length, but rarely ever pick up a book until her late teens, early twenties?

It’s a tiny miracle to me.

shining bright light of miracles

This tiny miracle tells me this is my talent, God’s gift to me.

I finally realized this only about two years ago. It hit me like a refreshing, cool breeze on a warm spring day. And I’m so glad it did. Since my early twenties, I’ve been reading and continue to read many, many books.

 

~*~*~*~

 

 

My Muse, My Inspiration

muse of wonderment and writing

I’ve discovered my muse. Her writings inspire me and give me mental motivation in my ability to write these days.  Not only that, she writes about topics and relationships that I have great interest in and have wanted to write about.  The muse is author Jodi Picoult.  You may have read at least one or two of her books if you like women’s fiction.  I wonder if she realizes what an inspiration she is to fellow writers.

The last novel I read of hers was the best.  It’s called House Rules.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. Loved it!

house rules novel cover

Synopsis:

When your son can’t look you in the eye . . . does that mean he’s guilty?

Jacob Hunt is a teen with Asperger’s syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, though he is brilliant in many ways. But he has a special focus on one subject—forensic analysis. A police scanner in his room clues him in to crime scenes, and he’s always showing up and telling the cops what to do. And he’s usually right.

But when Jacob’s small hometown is rocked by a terrible murder, law enforcement comes to him. Jacob’s behaviors are hallmark Asperger’s, but they look a lot like guilt to the local police. Suddenly the Hunt family, who only want to fit in, are directly in the spotlight. For Jacob’s mother, Emma, it’s a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it’s another indication why nothing is normal because of Jacob.

Any time I read her works, ideas flow from my mind onto the paper freely without constraints, and the writing isn’t half bad.  In fact, it often comes out beautifully!  Kudos that I’ve found my muse, my inspiration for aiding me in my creative writing endeavor.

champagne glasses

But when I’m not reading her, when I’m reading other authors’ books, my creative writing isn’t as rich.

I have heard that depending on the type of writing style and its brilliance or less brilliant form, voice, structure, character development, and flow of whatever authors you read can and will affect how good and creative your own writing will be.  Should I continue reading others’ books and settle for a mediocre spark of creativity? Perhaps I’m learning something else from these authors’ writings than from my muse’s writings, that can help my writing techniques in some way.  I just haven’t discovered what that is yet.  If and when I do, I’ll write a blog post on it.

Therefore, I won’t stop reading other authors’ works that I like.  After all, I do know that my first novel was written before I’d read anything by Picoult, so I know I can accomplish this.  I just need to stay motivated and continue to practice my writing and continue reading the genre in which I am interested and in which I write.  That’s part of being a writer.

idea writing

Incidentally, as I’d written this, new ideas popped into my head on additional dialogue and descriptions (in which I’d turned into written revisions) to my first novel, Passage of Promise.  I’ve been revising and deepening its protagonist, antagonist, and supporting characters’ relationships for the past week so that I can send it back to my editor in a couple weeks to re-edit and give any other suggestions.

Wow.  Who would have thought a blog post on writing abilities via one’s muse and the concerns about lesser creative abilities when not reading their works would lead to ideas sprouting like pea shoots in my head.  I think the creative writing of my muse lingers in my mind like the sweet smell of incense from Orthodox Church services I attend that cling to my clothes and hair, and keeps God in my thoughts for the week.

So, what are the solutions to this struggle of the muse and the lesser inspired readings to aid me in my writing?  Well, I will…

  1. Continue reading works from Picoult.
  2. Take daily walks. They give me peace, spur creative ideas, and nostalgic memories.
  3. Write, if not daily, every other day (I try, people).
  4. Do other creative activities. I’ve read they help spark ideas for your writing.
  5. Try not to worry about losing my writing abilities.  I’ve got to stay steadfast and believe in my writing.  And truly, writing is in me (has been since my childhood) and part of who I am.

Who’s your writing muse that helps inspire you?

 

~*~*~*~

 

 

Writer Vs. Inner Critic

silencing inner critic

Sweating with anxiety, I stepped into the familiar and dangerous ring of my mind, ready with padded gloves on.  My inner critic had a fast voice that knew how to bob and weave through my brain, punching out negative remarks in all the recesses of my gray matter.  It managed to paralyze the use of my left hand (yes, I’m a leftie), and rendered my pencil useless, until it had me flat out on the cushiony floor of the right side of my brain, gasping for creativity, ideas, any words at all.  But none would formulate in my brain before I was hit by another, “That’s not good enough.”  And this melee continued for several days.

This massive struggle was all over a first draft’s middle chapters.  Oh, those dreaded scenes.  What could be worse than trying to carry on your story twenty chapters in when everything you write looks like and feels like total crap?  The beginning started with such gusto and imagination and flair.  But now, like the plummeting of a meteor to earth, the haunting middle chapters had crushed my creative endeavor.  The last fizzle of ingenuity faded into the realm of unconsciousness.

open written notebook on desk

I came to just before the count of ten and rolled onto my side, huffing as I tried to lift myself.  My body slowly obeyed, as I worked hard to produce words.  The inner critic had the energy of ten people. As soon as I had gotten to my hands and knees, it rammed into me with a triple dose of “Your writing sucks.”  I lurched and collapsed onto my side.

But I wasn’t giving up.

With new clear determination, I decided to read over the pages I’d managed to write before this battle.  The words connected, weaved together in a coherent manner.  I grabbed the pencil next to my body, scrambled to my feet, and with a sharp inhale and swing of my hand wielding the pencil, I erased the words of the inner critic.  The inner critic’s voice attempted again to try and embed more of its toxic language into my brain.  But this time, with gained strength and confidence, I shouted, “Hey!  This is a first draft!” and kicked its foul castigations out of my head.

kicking something away

It scurried away, whimpering and mumbling, but I knew it would be back soon, too soon.  I would have to keep vigilant.  I hung my gloves on the wall of my brain, and with my right hand, grabbed a towel and wiped the sweat from my brow, and with my left hand that still had the pencil in its grasp, I started writing the next chapter, one that would not haunt me but would submit to my writing freely.  At least I hoped so.

 

~*~*~*~