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

1 comment:

  1. i read tolstoy "what men live by" and you were right it was timeless! i did not stop there though. in fact to day i read a few stories by tolstoy like "how much land does a man need" (i loved it) "3 hermits " (i dont think i understood the ending of that one" and "where love is God is" (in my opinion that one is a classic. we even did a play based on that one. i will have to tell you about it later)