I’m not well-read. Probably you have already reached this conclusion based on my sloppy abuse of vocabulary and illogically meandering sentence structure. The fact that I can rarely think of something to write about beyond the actual practice of writing might have tipped you off as well. There are masters to study, word smiths to idolize and emulate, and at the very least there are basic instructors to pay heed. There is a very big literary world out there, and for the most part I am not engaging with it. I was reminded of this fact today when I read about the Wisconsin Book Festival (held annually in Madison) and barely recognized a single participant. Authors, publishers, critics, librarians, and 2nd grade Reading teachers, and everyone else that a blogger (a writer) SHOULD know. But I don’t, because I don’t read. Hardly.
Towards the end of this summer I finished a book cover-to-cover, and the celebration which ensued far surpassed what is respectable. But for me, it was a joyous thing, because it had been that long since I had finished a book. Shortly after that, I finished another, and I’m currently working on my third, Bluebeard, by Kurt Vonnegut (probably the only author that I have a perfect track record of finishing). It’s kind of exciting, this new sense of accomplishment, of betterment.
I recently bought another book which I have been reading out of almost daily: The Message. That is, a Bible, but one which I can understand, given my lack of literary muscle. It’s less “Then saith the Lord Almighty: Hitherto dwelleth thine offspring!” and more “God says: Hey, here’s my son!” This is nothing revolutionary–The Message has been around since the 80s (I think?) and there have been plenty of paraphrased editions of the Bible before that–but for me it means the death of the cliche. For me it means I can read the Bible and go, “…whoa, wait, God said that? I don’t remember that!” And the nice thing about this Bible is that it is paralleled with the New International Version, so I can (and do) run my finger across the page to see how this “new” idea translates from the previous version–the one I am familiar with. Maybe this doesn’t sound that interesting, but for me it is kind of a breakthrough, since I’ve never been very good about reading anything with discipline, let alone the Bible.
Well, I think that these are significant baby steps, that’s why I write them down here. I’m reconnecting with that part of my brain that sees black squiggles on a page, then deciphers them as letters, then links those letters and spaces together to understand words, then watches for other squiggles and dots that set apart sentences, and eventually take these ideas and sends them to some other part of my brain which starts thinking critically. “Yes, I think that’s a great concept!” or “Are you kidding me? That is baloney!” or “Hm, I wonder what would happen if I took this idea and pushed it a few inches to the left…” (And of course there are more than three options.) I don’t think that reading more will make me a better writer; I think that reading more will make me a better thinker, and that that will make me a better writer.
Wait and see, wait and see.