Wednesday, March 2, 2011

You. Must. Read.

Last week, Tawna Fenske had a terrific post in which she said the secret to writing a great book is reading. Everything. All the time.

I happen to agree completely, but Tawna's post came at a time when someone on an RWA loop I belong to had just asked the question of how a writer finds time to read. Some of the responses to the original query were along the lines of "Oh God, yes, how do you find time? I haven't read in years! And my TBR pile is the size of a gigantic dung heap!"

My response is this: Sorry? What is this "no time to read" thing you speak of? Sounds like "I'd love to write a novel, but I have no time," or "Where do you find the time to do all that writing?"

I didn't want to offend anyone on my loop --- and I sure hope if any of them read this post, they see that I speak from a place of passion on this subject and that I'm not making fun of anyone. But I'll make no apologies for it, either. If you don't read, why are you writing? I really believe they go hand in hand, and the passion must exist for both in order to work. How can you learn if you don't read? What is wrong with you that you don't read? What has become of you that you don't have books stashed in every crack of the house, waiting for you? Bathroom? Yes! Five books waiting for me. Car? Yes! Books stashed in the driver's side door in case I have to sit parked somewhere for more than a minute. Bedside table? Funny you should ask! Beside cabinet? Can barely open door for amount of books crammed in there. Bookshelves? Of course. Several overflowing. Living room? God, yes.

I've even got books stashed on my whippersnapper's bookshelf.

And when the baby is born in April, I have a basket prepared for the nursing chair filled with books to read. Breastfeeding: not just for the health and well-being of the baby. Breastfeeding = reading time.

Where you find the time to read is in the same place you find it to write, or send email, or watch Glee. I don't watch Glee. I'm too busy writing or reading. I'm not saying that to sound superior. I have small children and I have to choose wisely with my free, non-kid time, and I freaking love reading so much that I think I love it even more than writing. Yes, there, I've said it. So I'm going to spend that time reading and writing. I read everywhere I can. It annoys some people, but it's the way it is. My mom still gets annoyed at me for reading at the dinner table.

If that rant isn't clear enough for why writers should be ashamed if they're not reading, let me tell you this story. As some of you know, I lived on the Greek island of Santorini when I was 9, 10, and 11. This was 1985-1987 or so.The island then was much less developed and while it catered to English-speaking tourists, it was far more rural than it is today and its offerings for reading material tended not to be in English.

My spoken Greek was rather on the cobbled side and I wouldn't be able to read Greek until I was 12 (and not well enough then to read fiction). I hungered so badly for reading material. So, so badly. The fourth grade school textbooks my mother had brought with me to home school me while we were on the island? Consumed and devoured within two months. (Except for the math one. Duh.) Spicy romances left behind in hotels by tourists? Scooped up by me. The hoteliers knew me, I'd stop by regularly and ask for leftover books. Completely inappropriate books for adults read by my mother's ex-pat friends, such as Jackie Collins' The World is Full of Married Men? Stolen and read by me.

One shop in Fira sold English-language items, mainly newspapers for ex-pats in Athens. They also sold, inexplicably since there couldn't have been much of a clientele for them except ME, some comics in English. I read it all. I had to have my dad send care packages of books, something he resented doing but did it anyway because he loved me. The win: I got books. The con: I didn't get to choose them. I didn't care. I still devoured every word, including the rather strange Culture Club fan book he sent.

One of the most hideous regrets in life was the day we left Greece and I left behind most of my books, on the assumption that we'd be back to claim them. I held this against my mother for a long time and begged her to get my books when she returned (she did eventually return, but did not get my books.) I don't know where they are now. It hurts my heart to think about it. At least I have the memory of them. And at least I have plenty of new books to read stashed in every crevice of my possessions.

I tell you this story to illustrate what it's like not to have things to read.

Do you read? What's your take? If you're not a reader, I hope you comment anyway and say why. I won't bite you for it. Promise. (I might pick up a book and whack you over the head with it, though, no promises.)

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