Okay, you’ve done it. After years, or a few days, of thoughtful consideration and desperate yearning, you’ve really done it. You’ve flipped a switch in your head, and maybe, if you’re lucky, in the heads of a few other people. You’ve acquired a desk that is really just a table, or at least one of those bean-shaped laptop-holding things. You may have also acquired your grandmother’s typewriter, or some expensive pens, or an expensive pocket-sized notebook with an expensive pocket-sized pen companion. You may have Googled the word “twee” in the hopes of learning more about a subset of the culture you’ve decided to fit yourself into, and you may have subsequently been unsure what exactly you were supposed to glean from the dozens of stills from Wes Anderson movies that then filled your screen. That is the moment you did it. You are now a Writer.
Maybe you’re a Writer because remaining in your squirrel-print pajama bottoms all day is a higher priority for you than things like food, or ever again being able to afford a new pair of pajama bottoms. Maybe you’re a Writer because you have some voices in your head that you hope will disappear if you can just write them out of you. They might, but new ones will take their places. Maybe you’re a Writer because you love stories, and you want to make, or just tell, some of your own. Writers often begin as Readers.
But with your new, exclusive title of Executive Writer come new responsibilities. Reading is no longer just for fun. As a Writer, reading is part of your job description. Reading is how you find the tricks you like, the tricks you don’t, the tricks you want to blatantly steal, and the tricks you know just how to twist for your own devious writerly purposes. As a Reader, you could sit back and let a story wash over you in big, macro waves. You could think about how those waves were formed, what tectonic shifts brought them to you, if you wanted to, but you didn’t have to. Some drops of these waves have probably lodged themselves in your proto-Writer brain, where they may one day coalesce into a magical dream that reveals the way your novel-in-progress should end.
But as a Writer, you need to be a little more systematic. Catalogue the droplets. Examine the physics. Pay attention. If you find yourself losing patience with a character, a narrator, a narrative, and forgoing the next chapter for a staring contest with that one really toothy squirrel on the left thigh of your pants, ask yourself why. If you find yourself blazing through a book in single, wine-fueled evening, ask yourself why. Good Writers are also Noticers and Questioners.
And Explorers – do not eschew with a firm hand anything that does not seem like the kind of thing you would write. If you want to write a novel, read some nonfiction, some plays, some poems. If you want to write some poems, read a memoir or a collection of short stories. Read blogs! Read product packaging! Read whatever you want to, and even a select few things you don’t want to. Above all, as a Writer, do what helps you, what makes you, write.
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