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.

 

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Pieces of Paradisiacal Prose

butterfly beauty

We all know and enjoy the written beauty that is found in poetry.  I know we readers also appreciate beautiful prose in fiction (and in creative nonfiction). When I come across such glorious text, I have to read it at least three times, drinking in the imagery, language, and writing style of the author’s work.  I’ve read a few books in the past two year mostly for my World Literature and Romantic Literature classes, and some of the writing really struck me at how stunning and masterfully written it was.  So, I’m going to share with you a few excerpts from three books.

plain truth book

First is a more contemporary piece.  It’s a piece of lovely writing from author, Jodi Picoult, in her novel, Plain Truth, that I read in my free time and finished a couple of weeks ago.  One of the main characters has been longing to have a child for the past several years, and she finds out she’s pregnant, which is a total surprise to her.  Here’s what the text says:

In the past five years, I had wanted a baby so much I ached. I would wake up sometimes beside Stephen and feel my arms throb, as if I had been holding a newborn weight the whole night. I would see an infant in a stroller and feel my whole body reach; I would mark my monthly period on the calendar with the sense that my life was passing me by. I wanted to grow something under my heart. I wanted to breathe, to eat, to blossom for someone else.

As a mother of two sons, I can not only relate to these words of hope, longing, and love, but also admire how she wrote it.

 

dr. jekyll & mr. hyde book

I read excerpts from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for my World Literature class several months ago, and I fell in love with Stevenson’s writing style.  It was beautiful.  Beautiful prose about the struggle of good and evil within a person.  I do plan to read the whole story one of these days!  The excerpt I’m going to share is the evil side that possessed the doctor as Hyde whenever he drank that nasty potion!

Instantly the spirit of hell awoke in me and raged. With a transport of glee, I mauled the unresisting body, tasting delight from every blow; and it was not till weariness had begun to succeed, that I was suddenly, in the top fit of my delirium, struck through the heart by a cold thrill of terror. A mist dispersed; I saw my life to be forfeit; and fled from the scene of these excesses, at once glorying and trembling, my lust of evil gratified and stimulated, my love of life screwed to the topmost peg. I ran to the house in Soho, and (to make assurance doubly sure) destroyed my papers; thence I set out through the lamplit streets, in the same divided ecstasy of mind, gloating on my crime, light-headedly devising others in the future, and yet still hastening and still hearkening in my wake for the steps of the avenger. Hyde had a song upon his lips as he compounded the draught, and as he drank it, pledged the dead man. The pangs of transformation had not done tearing him, before Henry Jekyll, with streaming tears of gratitude and remorse, had fallen upon his knees and lifted his clasped hands to God. The veil of self-indulgence was rent from head to foot, I saw my life as a whole: I followed it up from the days of childhood, when I had walked with my father’s hand, and through the self-denying toils of my professional life, to arrive again and again, with the same sense of unreality, at the damned horrors of the evening. I could have screamed aloud; I sought with tears and prayers to smother down the crowd of hideous images and sounds with which my memory swarmed against me; and still, between the petitions, the ugly face of my iniquity stared into my soul.

Nearly all of Dr. Jekyll’s confession at the end of the book is like a psalmody.  Amazing and glorious writing style.

 

the last man by mary shelley

Lastly, I read The Last Man by Mary Shelley for my Romantic Literature class and absolutely fell in love with Shelley’s poetic, beautiful, flowing prose.  I was so moved by it, I read it at least five times, and to my husband, son, and friend.  It has to be some of the best writing I’ve ever laid eyes on!  Here are three excerpts of her aesthetic work:

The laughing morning air filled them while sun-light bathed earth, sky and ocean–the placid waves divided to receive our keel, and playfully kissed the dark sides of our little skiff, murmuring a welcome.

Behold us now in our frail tenement, hemmed in by hungry, roaring waves, buffeted by winds.  In the inky east two vast clouds, sailing contrary ways, met; the lightning leapt forth, and the hoarse thunder muttered.

I thought I saw Adrian at no great distance from me, clinging to an oar; I sprung from my hold, and with energy beyond my human strength, I dashed aside the waters as I strove to lay hold of him.  As that hope failed, instinctive love of life animated me, and feelings of contention, as if a hostile will combated with mine.  I breasted the surges, and flung them from me as I would the opposing front and sharpened claws of a lion about to enfang my bosom.  When I had been beaten down by one wave, I rose on another, while I felt bitter pride curl my lip.

 

Unbelievable talent!  I hope these pieces of paradisiacal prose made your day and life richer and more beautiful. 🙂  I’d love to see your favorite excerpts of aesthetic writings.  Please feel free to share them below. 🙂

 

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