Thursday, April 26, 2012

Reading to Become a Better Writer


Reading: Your Brain’s Barbell

Epiphany. I’ve had one. I’ll probably have another one tomorrow. Startling things come to me and I’m so excited I can hardly stand myself. This particular epiphany hit me in the midst of signing up to follow one more blog. It occurred to me that I’m not writing; I’m reading. While there is nothing wrong with reading, it does begin to get in the way of writing. Or does it? 

Writer’s Block, the weekly radio program I do each Tuesday, requires an incredible amount of reading. In the interest of not asking dumb questions, I try to read the work of every writer I interview. That means in addition to my leisure reading, I’m reading two other books a week, plus the blogs I keep up with (Jane Friedman, Robert Lee Brewer, Carol Tice,, Shelf Awareness to name a few). In April I also took an online workshop with Kelly James-Enger, an online class with Dan Blank, the My Name is Not Bob platform challenge, and the Poem a Day challenge. Not to mention checking in at the Writer’s Digest website where there is a wealth of information for writers. There’s more, but my point has been made. Where in all of that is there time to write? Oh, and by the way, can anyone say social networking?

Writing Challenges Build Writing Skills

The platform and poetry challenges helped to put some of this in perspective. I am making time to participate in both challenges and have not missed a lick, although I am still working on the interview-an-expert thing. The poet has climbed its way out of the abyss of my fear of rejection and blossomed. I’ve made an incredible number of contacts and awakened to the value of twitter, Facebook and Google+ (although I have yet to figure out what the URL is for that one).

 Writing has been set aside in this quest to be more, learn more, try more, experiment, expand, connect. Or has it? All those people I mentioned did a lot for me over the last month. They helped me find reasons to write, focus, prioritize and grow. So thank you Jane, Robert, Dan, Kelly and everyone else who took the time to write, so I could read, so when I write, I’m better at it.

Who helped and how:

Platform Challenge: Prior to participating in this challenge I was unclear what building a platform meant. I was clueless when it came to social networking, didn’t know I could ask someone to guest blog on my site, or ask to guest blog on some other writer's blog, felt reluctant to create or join networks of writers, and never considered that by doing so I would become more connected.

Poem a Day Challenge: I’ve always enjoyed writing poetry, but it was my silly little secret. Well, not really. I’ve published my poetry in a book of daily devotionals I wrote and on my Joy in the Morning blog, but until the challenge, I didn’t have much confidence in my work. Now I see its value and appreciate its worth as a way to kick start creative thinking.

Blogging 101, Dan Blank: After more than two years of blogging I finally get it that there is more to it than banging away at a keyboard and praying someone happens upon my site. His helpful comments in response to the assignments forced me to grasp the fact that I have NO GRASP at all of things like SEO and keywords. I have a ways to go, but I’ll get there… someday.

Kelly James-Enger: My background is in print media and producing words by the buckets is no problem for me. As a reporter and editor my work was paid for with no problem. When I turned to freelance work I put the emphasis on FREE. While I have been paid for my writing over the years it has been spotty at best. Kelly reminded me in her workshop that there is a huge demand for good writing. It’s up to the writer to find a way to reach that market and provide what the market is looking for. The business side of writing is as important as creating that outstanding article, book, or blog.

Jane Friedman: Where do I begin? Both Jane and Robert Lee Brewer have a wealth of great content on their blogs and their guest bloggers have tons of must-read tips. Jane also posts discussions about the publishing industry in all its current dysfunctional glory, as well as outstanding advice about the craft of writing. Please check out the slide deck of Jane’s presentation at the Missouri Writers Conference about evaluating the first page of your novel.

If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that,” Stephen King wrote. What was my epiphany? All that reading I do? It’s getting me ready for the next thing I’m going to write. It’s my brain’s barbell building my writing muscle.
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