“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ~ Stephen King
Reading good writing can teach you about structure, dialogue, pacing, plot, using symbols & imagery to convey a point, you name it. It makes you ask questions like:
- How did the author get the dialogue to feel so authentic?
- What did he do on the page to make me feel so attached to the characters?
- What did he do with the pacing that I can’t put this book down?
- What word choices made the story feel alive?
- What did he do structurally that made this book so engaging?
Reading brilliant writers gives you something to strive for, a kind of if-they-can-do-it-so-can-I attitude. It also keeps you humble; there are always some stunning writers out there who are better than me. Plus, on the days when the writing’s tough, a beautifully written book can provide inspiration and motivation, at least for me.
Reading bad writing can teach you, too, if you ask yourself questions as you go along:
- Why does that dialogue sound stilted?
- Why is this chapter dragging?
- Why don’t I care about the characters?
- Why doesn’t the language flow?
- Why did I put the book down halfway through the first chapter and not care to pick it back up?
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” ~Stephen King
All of us want to be great writers. All of us, well everyone I know personally, started out a bad writer. Reading is the way that you get better. That and a lot of writing, too.
Do you believe that to be a good writer you must read? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.
“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.” ~ Vince Lombardi
I love Lombardi’s quote because everybody ~ and I do mean everybody ~ gets knocked down at some point in their lives, flattened to the point that they don’t want to get back up. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. When it happens to you, the most important things to do are these: 1. get back up & 2. learn from it. Early on, rejection used to do that to me, knock me flat. Here are some real-life examples:
Over the past 10+ years, I’ve been rejected over 100 times. I stopped counting at 100 so I don’t know exactly how many. Some of them were fabulous (“This is beautifully written but not for me”) and some were less stellar (“I wasn’t satisfied at all with the ending”) & some were downright mean (“With all the awards you’ve won, I expected it to be so much better.” ~ although, in my defense, she only read the first 5 pages before rejecting me). What I could’ve learned is that I’m not a good-enough writer and my work isn’t publishable. What I learned, though, was in some cases, I simply sent my book to the wrong person because he/she didn’t represent my genre. In other cases (like the ending), my manuscript really did need work. And finally, while everyone is entitled to their opinion, that doesn’t automatically make them right or mean that their comments have helpful value.
I once caught the CFO of a company I worked for in a lie. A big lie. One that I thought might affect the company in a very negative way. So I reported it to his boss. Two days later, I got fired. Technically, I got fired for “job performance” but quite frankly, my performance had never been an issue until I pointed out that the head of finance was lying. Can you say shoot the messenger? Well, I could’ve learned to keep my mouth shut & my head down. But instead I chose to learn that I don’t ever want to work for a company or a person that supports/encourages dishonesty. Because, really, if they’re lying to each other, you know they’re also willing to lie to you.
I once got dumped because I gained some weight. Yeah, it was a lot. But still, his parting words to me: “I’m just not attracted to you when you’re fat.” Ouch. What I took away from that, after I picked myself up off the floor, was that I don’t want somebody ~ anybody ~ in my life who can’t see past what’s on the outside (how that came out of my mouth at the time was: “I don’t want anymore !*^&#$@ shallow *!$@)^ jerks”). And it’s not just weight either. It’s also scars, skin color, birthmarks, birth defects, handicaps, whatever. I could’ve learned imperfect/different people are unloveable. What I learned from that experience, though, is how to spot the jerks and kick them to the curb after insensitive comment number one. That way, I didn’t have to waste anymore of my time. I also learned how to spot the good ones, and then I married one of them.
AND THE POINT IS . . .
Once I started turning rejection around & seeing what I could gain from it, it wasn’t nearly as bad. Was it great? No. Was everybody’s rejection helpful? That’s a no, too. Did I look forward to it? Not a chance. But at least it wasn’t the devastating, knock-me-over-with-a-feather experience it once had been. I know I’m venturing into Oprah territory here, but really if you look at rejection as a lesson ~ what’s in it for me ~ instead of a personal failure, it eases the sting a whole lot.
So what have you learned from rejection? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.
Grand Prize Winner, Grant Winner, & Silver Medal Winner