|Photo courtesy of Flickr|
Hard to imagine, right? My dad likes to brag that I had read every book in the school library by the time I was eight.
But it was as if I had traded my love of reading for a new love – that of writing. And writers must read. If success comes with sacrifice did it have to be the one thing that I needed to do to be a writer? I suddenly feared that writing and reading were not compatible.
It struck me in way it was like having your first child. When my son was born all my love and affection went to him. It was so intense, this new love. It colored my entire world. It was a force that hit me and covered me in need, driving all my energy to it. Parents know what I am talking about. You love your spouse but a child – that is a crazy intense love that takes you unaware. Eventually, I found my own identity again as a mother and wife – and author. I had balance again.
But I had become so sucked into the world of creating that I needed to redefine my balance as a new author. My brain burst with words, ideas, dialogue, action, and characters. I couldn’t slow my thoughts down. All of my concentration went toward writing.
But a writer reads! I forced myself to slow down my brain and set aside time to read. From book to book I traveled. I would read a few pages then move on like a wandering nomad. There was no joy. The words jumped and crashed into each other. I couldn’t absorb them.
Then a writer friend told me something that changed everything. She said I wouldn’t be happy with what I used to read before I was an author. I would need books to challenge me, not just the same book escape. She was right. I had become bored with reading. I needed more.
I wanted to be affected by what I read. Changed, transformed, and moved - exactly what I yearned to achieve in my own writing. I didn’t want to read for empty entertainment. As our tastes in food, clothes, and music change as we grow, so do our reading tastes. This realization uplifted me. I had a new quest. Discover what kind of reader I had become.
|My son reading one of my fave books from childhood|
I kept looking for the book to change me. One day I happened upon a sweet middle grade book, Sparrow Road by Sheila O'Connor. It was beautiful and sad and hopeful. I cried and laughed as I read it straight through. I had fallen in love again. This time with middle grade and young adult. And this prompted me to switch from writing thrillers for adults to thrillers for children. You can read my review of Sparrow Road here.
Stephen King said, “The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen.” I aim to be less of a fool for sure.
So then I thought, why not re-read my favorite books from childhood all over again and discover why I fell in love with reading? These are my ragged books I’ve held onto for decades. The ones close to my heart. And that’s just what I did. I re-read White Fang, Fahrenheit 451 (RIP Ray Bradbury), The Secret Garden, Fantastic Mr. Fox, My Side of the Mountain, The Crystal Cave, The Children of Green Knowe, and Island of the Blue Dolphins. And of course, ALL of the Little House on the Prairie books.
|Sample of my bookshelf now|
I fell in love with reading again and soon wished I had a whole week to just READ. A reading vacation. To gobble up as many books as possible. Of fantasy, adventure, drama, middle grade, adult, young adult, and memoir.
As writers we need to read. I’m glad I found my lost-love again. The Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges, said “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
I’m glad my paradise is back. Have you ever lost and found your paradise? If so, how did you find it again?