Monday, January 16, 2012

Progress Report

Reading and Writing

by Carrie K Sorensen

There is no substitute for reading and writing. If you must replace them use blood and bone; there just as integral to my being.
Here is what I am noticing.

When I read, I can enjoy the book, and still go back and learn from it. I've read three books in the past week, worrying while reading that I wasn't getting much out of them because I enjoyed them so much. Afterward, though, as I began to digest the completed story, what I liked and didn't in each book started to become more clear.

I realized I wasn't reading slower so much as more closely. I could allow myself to enjoy the story because, as I read, I was storing away little bits of information along the way to go back over later. Because of this, instead of simply closing the book and putting it back on the shelf, thinking about the writing had me opening it again. My mental notes lead to spot reading, to pin-pointing, and to realizing how much more there was to take away from both the style and the message of each book.

I notice that when I write, I'm spending a lot more time focusing on style as opposed to story. This is in part due to the premise and structure of the story is pretty much done. It's also done in part to (hopefully) increase the readability of my story. All this focus on style is going incredibly slow. In a way, I feel it's more like editing than writing because of the pace. So I hope that I either a) learn to write with style faster or b) become better at putting it in during editing.

This time around, I'm not too worried about timing when it comes to my writing. The point is to learn how to write more engagingly and anytime you work on a new skill it can be slow going at first. I'm just used to writing in huge binge-like spurts, then stopping for a while. These small step days are something different. I'm writing on more days, but using less time each day and with lower word counts (not counting up front, but keeping track at the end).

The slow writing pace is driving me crazy, wearing me out. Yet when I get to that point where everything slides into place and the tension in my mind eases, I'm left feeling clear-headed and proud of my accomplishment. Thank goodness I have all those new books to learn from while I'm recovering from all the writing exercise. Which leads me to my last point.

I'm noticing reading while writing is an excellent compromise of time, progress, experimentation and learning. In the past, I always focused on one or the other, not wanting the voice or style in my writing to be compromised by what I was reading. When I was younger, this was definitely a problem. Now that I'm older and more comfortable with engaging and disengaging with both, I can read someone else's work and still write true to my own story. In fact, I feel like my writing is helping my reading as my reading helps my writing.

Who knew the two would work so well hand in hand? It's definitely something to try.

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