Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How does a writer read?

Well, I can tell you how writers don’t read. We don’t read to be critical or negative or tear down another writer. Writers are generally encouraging and positive when discussing someone else’s writing.

That said, writers hold one another to a high standard. We don’t settle for drivel set on a page by someone who ought to be selling candles. We don’t appreciate a churned out effort made only for the sake of a paycheck. We aren’t always kind when discussing that type of writing.

Writers look for the emotion and depth of words presented on the page. We find the rest of the story that lives in the white space. It’s funny to me to listen to writers talk about books. “I think what he meant by that was . ..” “Clearly, she was talking about this because on page 54 she said that which was a foreshadow to this on page 97.”

How do we know?

Because it’s what we do. We play these games with words and explain and express and emote until the reader is so immersed they don’t even know how they got there. Unless the reader is a writer. Then the writer reader will see that which is not written. They will play the game and tumble along from thought to thought.

Here is a piece of a review of the novella by Tolstoy I wrote several years ago for 90&9, “Woven through this beautiful allegory of giving is a sense of common beauty. The beauty of family life and community breathe through every chapter. Tolstoy’s characters live simply, unburdened by the traps of possessions. They have one another. They have their work. They have God. What else could they need? They are not oblivious to the grand riches of the wealthy around them. Rather, they are satisfied with the richness of their relationships.” All that from a few pages of writing. Oh, but Tolstoy is so grand to read! You feel as though you are sitting at the feet of a great man when you turn the pages of his books.

Writers read to sharpen themselves. We like to see what else has been done. Not to copy one another, ever. But to find ways to make ourselves better. We love to read. We love to expand our knowledge, to find better ways to express ourselves.
We don’t despise shallow writing, but we do frown upon it. I find myself reading shallow books to distract me from reality when nothing else is available. I find myself reading real books when I have moments to revel in their goodness.

Writers love to read. Here are some specific examples of how I read, as a writer and some thoughts about what I have read. Perhaps you would like them, too. Let me know.

Albom Bestsellers Stick to Your Conscience
By Kris Newman
January 19, 2004 -

Tolstoy? Timeless!
What Men Live By
By Kris A. Newman
November 3, 2003

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I am a Writer.

I remember when I was 13 and working on writing something. A friend innocently asked, “are you going to be a writer?”

“Yes.” Definitive answer, but of course, what else? How could they ask such a silly question.

Over the years I have written many things. Poems, plays, stories, album and book reviews. Give me an occasion, give me an audience, and I’ll write something for you.

My answer to the “are you a writer” question has evolved, too. “I do some writing.”
As recently as last summer someone asked me what I was going to do with my English degree when I finally have it in hand. “I’d like to get published, maybe teach writing.”

I am learning now that one does not become a writer, one simply is. I am required to write for my classes. A certain particular level of expectation is placed upon me by my professors. I am not “doing some writing,” I am expressing through writing.

In Hallucinating Foucault, Patricia Duncker says, “The identity of a writer is always a subject for speculation.” That set me to thinking. Why is it so difficult to tell who a writer is? Because a writer is always changing, always absorbing the atmosphere, always experiencing something. A writer doesn’t go for a walk. A writer immerses themselves in the world touching the flowers, smelling the factory smoke, hearing the colors, feeling the music of the day. A writer is constantly becoming someone new.

A writer cannot be a distant friend regardless of how alone they appear. A writer will experience the lives of those around her. A writer feels differently than everyone else. A writer may try to closet themselves away, to be separate. Don’t be fooled by this silence. It is only in response to her depth of emotion that she cuts herself away. When she simply cannot bear the burden any longer, she must be alone to write.

A writer is never content, never satisfied, never finished. There is always something else pushing a writer to continue. Words haunt a writer’s mind. Floating above the common scene, words dart about waiting to be captured by the writer. Once the expressions begin, a writer cannot stop until the picture is painted. Completely.

I can no more just “do some writing.” I must empty myself of the emotions, expressions, experiences which have grown in me, around me, through me.

I am a writer.