Wednesday, February 18, 2009

When Reading Becomes Writing

I read a lot yet always think I should read more. But what I hate about reading lately is that there I am, settled into the couch, fully pulled into a perfectly fine book when I get an idea for my story. To be clear, it’s not like I’m reading a book where the character has a heart attack and I think, I know, my character should have a heart attack. The two topics are always completely unrelated.

But reading wakes up my writing bones and even more so as I’m doing more writing these days. I think a lot of writing is subconscious. I never ever plot a story. I have no idea what is going to happen when I sit down in front of the computer. Most days, I open my laptop and think “I have no idea what to write. How am I going to get 2,000 words out of nothing?”

But then I go ahead and write nothing. OK, I don’t mean nothing at all, but instead nothing significant. I start with very little things. I make my character walk down the aisle, go for a jog, walk her dog, go to lunch. A very simple forward motion (I try to avoid the character sitting around and thinking, but gosh, sometimes I just can’t help myself) and then do you know what happens? I start making things up. I make up a whole bunch of things, and have my character do these things, and then throw in obstacles to prevent future related things from happening.

I would never think up these things when I’m in the shower or cleaning the kitchen sink. I don’t think these things when I’m away from my writing for long either. But once my fingers hover over the keyboard, it’s like they get addicted to typing silly crazy things that I make up. And when my brain is reading words, it decides it has some silly crazy words of its very own to put into my very own book.

Shopping for clothes? No story ideas. Driving in my car? No story ideas, just singing along to the radio at the top of my lungs. Chopping broccoli? No story ideas, just laughs about Dana Carvey.

But when I’m in front of that computer or engrossed in a book, story ideas abound. I think it’s kind of magnetic. So put yourself in situations where, when the magic mountains come, you are ready to write all about them. That means read a lot. Go to the bookstore. Hang out at the library (seriously, when was the last time you went there?) Make new writer friends. And for crying out loud, but sure to sit at the computer now and again and type some words.

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