Writing–The Reading Malaise

Books

I’m not a steady reader. I read in bursts. One month I might read four, five, six books. The next month the only thing I’ll read are online articles and my writing magazines. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It’s just the way I roll.

I’m in one of those reading funks right now.

I have books. In fact, I just got a bunch from my mother because she’s cleaning out her bookcases (Mom does not reread anything, so after a while, she starts giving books away to make room for new ones). But nothing sounds good. It’s like going to the refrigerator and repeatedly opening the door and looking inside. You’re hungry, you know you’re hungry, but you don’t know what you want.

That’s exactly how I’m feeling right now, but with books.

Last night I had some extra time and I thought I should read something. I started looking around. I looked at the books I brought home from Mom’s. I looked through Papa’s books on my Kindle. I started rereading a book just for the sake of reading, but I wasn’t into it.

I want to read, but I don’t know what I want to read.

It’s frustrating. Reading isn’t only part of my job, but I also read because I enjoy it. And when I feel like this my enjoyment is kicked right in the sensitive parts. It’s not fair.

But like that nagging hunger feeling, I’ll eventually placate myself by reading something. It might not necessarily be what I’m craving, but since I don’t KNOW what I’m craving, it’ll be good enough.

At the very least it will help ease this malaise and give my brain a bit of a shake. By the time I’m done, there’s a good chance I’ll have an idea of what I want to read next.

Then I’ll be cured.

Until the next time.

Writing–Reading Goals Update

Bookshelf

I said sometime close to the beginning of the year (the exact date of the post eludes me) that one of my goals for the year was to read. I needed to change the way I thought about reading and to do that I set the goal for myself to read twelve books this year, at least one a month. Six had to be non-fiction, six had to be fiction, and only one could be a re-read.

Well, I’m happy to say that I’ve been living up to the challenge I set for myself. Not quite four months into the year I’ve read seven books, four fiction, three non-fiction, one re-read. I admit that the book I’m reading now, a non-fiction book, is also a re-read, but I think I can make up for that seeing as I’m over half-way to my goal and I still have a little over eight months left in the year.

I’m glad to say that the challenge is doing exactly what I’d hoped it would do. Because I have this goal hanging over my head, I’m making time in my day to read, even just a little bit, because I don’t want to fail. I’m conditioning myself to read every day as part of my job. I’m getting it out of my head that I don’t have time to do it and instead, I’m making time to do it.

As it should be.

On Writing by Stephen King

I believe I’ve mentioned before, at the very least in passing, that my writing bible of sorts is On Writing by Stephen King. I try to read it at least once a year. I’ve read other books on writing, but this is the one that really resonated with me.

It’s divided into two sections (okay, there’s also a postscript as well, but let’s not go splitting hairs just for the sake of splitting them). The first section, the C.V. is a biography of sorts, detailing memories and events that he believes helped shape him as a writer, or at the very least, pushed him on his writing path. The second section is the toolbox, in which he provides all of the “tools” he believes a writer needs. (If you’re curious, the postscript recounts his being hit by a van, nearly dying, and how writing fit into his recovery.)

It’s the toolbox portion of the book that really got to me, though I have to admit, I loved reading about his life (I’m voyeuristic like that). Stephen King was brought up lower middle class and that’s how he presents the toolbox. It is what it is without pretension. It was the first writing book I read that didn’t leave me feeling stupid afterwards. It didn’t leave me feeling like I was doing it wrong.

The book is very much “Here’s how I did it, here’s what I do, here’s what I think works, here’s what I think might help you, now go and work it out for yourself”. Like I said, no pretension. He acknowledges that there’s no one way or right way to writing success or even writing period. He makes me feel like not only is it okay to do it my way, but to experiment without abandon to find out what my way is. I appreciate that.

I appreciate the advice, the experience, and the straightforward way he presents the sometimes aloof subject of writing. There’s no glamour, no nose-in-the-air snottiness. It’s a job. It’s a lot of work. And if you really love it, then it’s more than worth it.

As I said before, I try to read it once a year to remind myself what I’m doing. It’s like a map. I read the book to get my bearings so I can plod on. I don’t belong to a writer’s group. I have a few writing friends, by not many. This book is my guide, which may be a little silly, but it works for me.

And thank you, Stephen King, for giving me the freedom to find out what works for me.

Writing–Reading Goals

The amount I read in 2011 was pitiful. I mean I’m so ashamed of it that I see no reason to put an exact number how little I did read. Just know that it was pathetic and I’m embarrassed by it.

I’m also not going to offer up any excuses. I failed in that aspect of my job and I admit it.

In order to prevent another year of reading failure, I’m giving myself some pretty simple goals to achieve in order to get myself back on track.

The overall goal is to read 12 books this year, one book a month. I know that’s not much, but this is a bounce back year. It’s best to set the bar low to alleviate the possibility of disappointment and discouragement.

Of the 12 books I plan to read this year, six of them will be fiction and six of them will be non-fiction. This is because I have a tendency to read more non-fiction and as a fiction writer, I should probably be reading more fiction. This guarantees that at the very least, I’m maintaining an equal balance.

Of the six fiction books I plan to read, at least one of them will be in a genre other than horror (my preferred reading genre). I’m thinking chick-lit or romance because that’s pretty much as opposite as I can get and I really need to work on expanding my reading boundaries.

Of the six non-fiction books I plan to read, at least one will be a memoir. This is a genre I would like to write it at some point so I need to explore it. Also, of the six non-fiction books I plan to read, no more than ONE will be a re-read (I don’t re-read fiction like I do non-fiction, and there are a several non-fiction books I tend to re-read every year). I need to find something new.

I never said my reading goals were going to be lofty, but they do fulfill specific purposes and outline in concrete terms what I need to do in order to improve my game for the year. I’m that kind of person. If I see it set out just like that, then it becomes a challenge and I am one of those people that hate to lose.

And by completing these goals (and possibly exceeding them), I’m sure to win in more ways than one.

Like Mother, Like Daughter…Scary!

Whenever someone tells me (or someone else) that I’m acting just like my mother, it’s typically not meant as a compliment. What they mean is that I’m acting in such a way that they don’t approve of and attribute my behavior to something genetically inherited from my mother.

However, I am like my mother in some ways, good and bad.

For example (and for Halloween), my mom and I both love horror.

The last time I was at her house, AMC was showing all four of the Alien movies and Mom and I watched the end of Alien and most of Aliens. She loves the SyFy channel on the weekends for movies, no matter how bad they might be. The People Under the Stairs was on Saturday morning and I immediately thought of Mom. She watched that movie a couple of times a week when I was a kid.

She took me and my friend to see Se7en. She rented me Rosemary’s Baby and brought home Dracula from the library for me when I was sick.

Mom is the reason I know who Stephen King is. She read all of his books. I can specifically remember her reading Salem’s Lot. I remember the cover of the book. I remember reading the dusk jacket.

I have yet to read it, though.

When I was finally allowed to check out an adult book at the library at the tender age of 11, Mom didn’t bat an eyelash when I came back with Jaws.

I can’t say that my mom is the reason why I like horror (as I said in my post about why I write horror, I’m not sure exactly WHY I like it or write it), but my mom was definitely a horror enabler. She liked it, realized I liked it, and encouraged me to explore it.

Of course, we don’t always agree on our horror likes. Mom liked Scream enough to make me watch it (during Thanksgiving dinner, naturally). I hated it. I enjoy Vincent Price more than Mom does.

It doesn’t matter, though. The point is that it’s a bonding point for us. Our relationship hasn’t always been the greatest, as happens sometimes with mothers and daughters. Sometimes it’s easier for me to focus on the differences and disagreements. They’re easier to see. It’s easy to forget when we get along or agree. The lack of conflict seems to diminish the recall on the memory.

But even as I picked my brain for more memories of the Mom-horror connection, I was shocked at the warmth that bubbled up behind them. It’s kind of odd that I’d get sentimental and gooey watching a guy run around in a gimp suit while he shoots through the walls because one of his cellar children escaped into them because it reminds me of my mom, but there you go.

My mother and I have an interesting, if not unique, relationship.

You can tell by the ways I take after her.