Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Reading Out: Booking Through Thursday (on Tuesday)

I know this is almost a week late, but what can I say, life is like that for me.

So The Book Fiend does a weekly thing called Booking Through Thursday. I never got to answer last Thursday's question, much to my disappointment, and therefore do so now. It was:

Do you carry books with you when you’re out and about in the world? And, do you ever try to hide the covers?

To the first question, my answer is a resounding No. Sure I'll bring something to read during lunch at work, but other than that, No. At least, not anymore.

One of the reasons I stopped is I live in Arizona, and during the summer our cars get hot. As in spine-glue-melting, page-curling hot. So if I'm not able to bring the book into the air conditioning with me and have to leave it in the car (I like my purses as small as possible, which doesn't leave room for a book), I don't want my books to perish before their time in the sweltering heat. I cherish my books way too much to subject them to such torture.

Another reason I stopped is I now get carsick. When I was little I used to be able to read during a car ride (other children were quite envious), but one day it just wasn't possible anymore. So there is no reason to carry a book for the car ride. I now use the time to brainstorm if I can. The scenery is pretty boring and blinding unless it's overcast.

But the main reason I don't carry a book: I'm a writer.

"That's a stupid reason!" you say. "That's the best reason to carry a book! Writers should always be reading." Well, in my opinion, you are wrong.

When a writer is out in the world, they should not have their nose buried in a book. A writer should be observing.

What is a writer but a person who makes up stories based on their observations of the world? How else are we supposed to know how the opposite gender would act, or just the right inflection for dialogue, or how the body would move when put in a situation?

By observing life.

And you certainly can't do that with your eyes and brain caught in someone else's story, lost in their own personal world of observation and imagination. Everyone sees things differently. You cannot truly observe through someone else's observations. It's like art (the painting, drawing kind). Even if everyone is looking at the same model, everyone will see something, interpret it, differently. It is the same with writing.

Reading is for when there is nothing to observe, curled up on your couch, bed, favorite chair, or staring at an office wall in the lunch room. The next time you're stuck waiting in that long line at the post office, or sitting there at that coffee shop table, don't pull out your book. Observe. Watch how people interact, listen to how they talk. If you get really bored, start imagining what kinds of lives they lead - make up whatever you like. Who knows, you may discover the lead for a new story.

So the next time you go to grab that book on your way out, leave it behind. Try it at least once. And when you would otherwise be reading, observe those around you. You might just be surprised what you see.

And as for the second part of the question, No, I never hide covers. I'm a card-carrying member of manga and young adult fiction and proud of it. Although I admit to sometimes leaving a manga with a more risque cover at home... ;)


  1. Nice post, and you make a good point. Included in the books that I carry is a spiral notebook filled with observations and comments I've overheard or had said to me (and so much more).

    Ever since I could hold a chubby pencil I've wanted to write, but in college I was asked if I wanted to make money, implying a degree in literature or an mfa wouldn't bring home much of a paycheck. So now I'm a nurse dreaming of being a writer...still. Yeah, I make good money, but that isn't what life's about. I should've held my ground. Today I'm actually going to see a career counselor to find out how best to continue my education: potentially change fields all together or end up with my AP and see patients along side a doctor.

    My dream? To write and share the stories that flow through my mind like movies and open a little indie book store. My husband tells me I'm insane, at least about the indie book store.

    I'm of the opinion that writers should read, not so much for entertainment, but with a critical eye examining how the writer is telling the story (and all that it entails). There's such a huge difference.

    Have a great day. And keep those words flowing!

  2. @Evie

    A notebook is always a must for a writer. I have a small one tucked into my purse (I never leave home without it!).

    I think that a writer should study everything around them - and that includes what they read (and what they watch as well). I've been writing so long now that without even meaning to I take apart plots and dissect character motivation and such automatically. I find it a lot of fun and very informative - but it does drive my housemates crazy. XD

    And I'm with you - I have a dream to open a small bookstore. Hopefully in a cozy small town with lots of trees (like Stars Hollow ;). My housemates think it's far-fetched too. (Although one would secretly like to do it with me!)

    Good luck with your career(s)!