Friday, October 5, 2018

Why Writers Need to Read by Melinda Viergever Inman

Melinda Viergever Inman

Why Writers Need to Read

We love to read. This is one of the reasons we grew up to become writers. We spent our summers in libraries and carried heavy tomes around with us to read in our spare moments. To extend our reading long into the night, we stuffed towels under our bedroom doors, lest our parents see our lights were on.

Our reading shaped us into writers, people who feel in our bones the rhythm and rhyme of a story. We often penned our first tales before we could even write words, illustrating them with the primitive art of storytelling. Later we wrote in notebooks, keeping our own private volumes of stories. We kept journals. We recorded our lives.

We who are older grew up on manual typewriters, feeling the rhyme of the story in the staccato strokes of the keys, the cold steel of the carriage return lever, and the swinging thud of the return.

Manual Typewriter

 
But, as we became immersed in our lives as writers, cultural and business changes in the publishing industry cast us into the role of marketer as well as author. We didn’t count on this. It consumes more than half our time.

This is not what nurtures a writer’s soul. We need the intake of words.

To encourage you, I’ve been suggesting radical actions—helping one another by reviewing the work of other authors, writing the words God gives you, no matter how controversial, and trusting him to secure the audience for those words.

Now I have another suggestion: Don’t neglect your reading.

I’m going about this in a way that allows me to read new works of fiction, so I can leave reviews for other authors. But, I’ve also realized that my soul craves, and indeed needs, those classic works of fiction that motivated my writer’s soul in the first place. I’m returning to Dickens, Austen, Undset, Bronte, Alcott, and Gaskell. 

These authors knew how to write a moral tale without preaching. They knew how to make the point within the story and to shape the story to present the moral choice in a way that transformed the reader. Now that we’re writers with an eye for method, reading them reveals exactly how they did it.

I’m also reading Christian writers of the last century—the ones who wrote with such superlative skill that they were featured by secular press like the New York Times Magazine.

The poetic words of Marjorie Holmes were a catalyst for me. I’m revisiting her work. A new discovery for me is Christian writer John L. Moore, who started out as a newspaper man. While reading his work, I’m observing how a man tells a tale—a vital lesson for a female writer with a male audience. Because I’m working on my western sequel, Moore’s work in the Ezra Riley series is timely.

I’m sure you have your own favorites. So, why isn’t this a waste of time when we should be marketing?

There are several reasons. 

We have the souls of writers and the hearts of people who love the Lord. To write for Jesus, we must nurture both aspects of our spiritual selves. We must read stories and poems that uplift our souls and touch our hearts. Also, we must meditate on and fix our roots down deep into God’s Word and into stories—Biblical and otherwise—that impress upon us those truths. These are non-negotiable if we want to continue without burning out and giving up.

Additionally, we must develop our craft. If you’re like me, you have shelves full of books on writing. You've worked through those, implementing what you learn there. But, we also need to read good fiction in order to feel and absorb these lessons, so they become a natural part of us. Reading makes us better writers. It always has.

And so, dear writer, I’m encouraging you to read. If need be, neglect your marketing to do it. The fruit is too valuable. Feed your soul.




Melinda V Inman, Author of Refuge; Fallen; and No Longer Alone

 
Raised on the Oklahoma plains in a storytelling family, Melinda Viergever Inman now spins tales from her writer’s cave in the Midwest. Her faith-filled fiction illustrates our human story, wrestling with our brokenness and the storms that wreak havoc in our lives. Find her weekly at http://MelindaInman.com/blog/. To find her work and to be notified of future published novels, follow her at http://bit.ly/MelindasBooks/.

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17 comments:

  1. If you don't feed your own soul, you have nothing with which to feed your readers. Great post! God bless!

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    1. That’s so true, Nancy! You can’t write if your soul is shriveled from marketing tasks and busywork. Thanks for commenting.

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  2. Melinda, this is one piece of advice I'll have no trouble taking! In fact I tend to read to the excess.

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    1. This is one of those author instructions that is a relief, isn’t it! One that gives to our soul care rather than stripping us to the bones!

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  3. Thanks Melinda, great reminder. Sometimes I get caught up in the writing and marketing and forget to relax and enjoy a read for myself. Great advice.

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    1. We need time with the Lord and in his Word, and we need the poetry of the words of other writers. We can’t write from a dry well. Thanks for commenting, Yvonne.

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  4. "We need the intake of words." So true, Melinda.

    Reading both God's Word and good books does absolutely nurture our soul. I've always heard, "great writers are great readers." And I believe it's true. We can't neglect reading if we want to further our craft as a writer ourselves.

    Appreciate your insight here. Karen

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Karen. It’s so important, and for those of us who write for a living, we have to maintain the balance of feeding our souls in order to keep writing.

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  5. I love to read. My husband knows the piles of books in our house will all be read sooner or later. :-)

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    1. Piles of books are the sign of a good home and a great mind. Thanks for commenting, Melissa.

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  6. "This is not what nurtures a writer’s soul. We need the intake of words." Yes! I have felt so guilty because I miss some aspect of social media here or forget to do something there but today I just turned on an audio book by AW Tozer and it felt good. We NEED to read! Thank you!

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    1. We do! Like you, I can’t do the hours of social media daily if I want to be balanced, whole, healthy, AND a writer. There must be time in the Word. There must be reading. There must be rest. There must be beauty and life. God will take care of the outcome. Watch over your heart with all diligence. God bless you, sister!

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  7. Very sound and much needed advice. An emtpy vessel has nothing to give.
    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. So true! An empty vessel is a great metaphor for the writer who isn’t intaking life-giving words. Thanks for commenting, Juanita!

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  8. I recently received a box of my grandmother’s cards and mementos from my cousins. My grandmother kept every letter or card I sent her. I came across my thank you notes for the books she sent me from her own collection while I was in college. I stayed up hours reading those amazing classics. Since receiving that box, I had been contemplating picking up a book for the pure joy of reading and your post here is just the kick I needed to start today.

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    1. Do it, Elaine! Enjoy reading again! Follow in your grandmother's footsteps. What an amazing heritage! Thank you for commenting and sharing your family story. It's truly beautiful!

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  9. I also loved reading the work of Marjorie Holmes. I would read Two From Galilee every Christmas. Another author from way back was Joyce Landorf. Her fictional account of the life of Joseph captivated me.

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