Turning good reading into good writing

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Writing inspiration is not always straightforward. Of course, spontaneous inspiration can come from anywhere: the eggs you ate for breakfast, a phone conversation with an old friend, a bunch of withered lemon slices strewn, for some mysterious reason, on the floor. sidewalk. But long-term inspiration is different. Writing is a complicated process, and this is true whether you write professionally or spend time on personal writing projects that are important to you. The constant fuel that fuels this complicated process is probably more often than not engagement with the process on the other side. In other words, reading.

That being said, it’s not like it’s easy to turn a true love of writing into a fulfilling writing habit. A lot of people find it hard to write even if they absolutely want to. It can take the form of a feeling of lack of inspiration or self-confidence to introduce an editor to a publication you admire. Or never quite finish the story you’re working on. Or abandon your personal blog when updating it would normally please you.

I don’t position myself as someone who has transcended these scenarios or who cannot identify with them. I am painfully familiar with each of them, and I still deal with each of them. I also think people have a hard time writing for a number of reasons. But I think it’s rarely a bad idea to go back to the ultimate source of inspiration for writing: reading. I say this to remind myself as much as to share the idea with you. If you really want to write, there’s a good chance that at some point reading has inspired you. Below are a few possible ways to channel that inspiration into your own words on the page.

Create ways to interact with your reading material (and other readers)

Even if you’re not primarily interested in writing about books, thinking about and communicating about them can help you understand what you like about the things you read. By sharing your thoughts in writing or out loud with other people, you will also develop a habit of expressing yourself in words.

Write book reviews

Even if you’re just posting book reviews on a personal blog or on Goodreads, putting yourself in a situation where you need to express your thoughts on an article can be very helpful. This increases your ability to understand written work, which in turn increases your confidence in your own writing.

Confused about posting negative reviews of someone else’s writing? You don’t trust your ability to properly judge the work? You can always focus only on what you like or don’t like about a book. And of course, you are free to post only book reviews that you like. The important part of this exercise is being able to explain your own reactions to you. If you want to write in a way that makes you happy, it can be helpful to understand why other people’s writing produces certain feelings in you.

Join or form book clubs or discussion groups

Not all thoughtful reviews have to be in writing! It can be nerve-racking to share your written thoughts with the world, especially in a more or less permanent form. Of course, you can edit a blog. But expressing your words is different from having an informal chat with a friend.

Speaking of which, no one is saying that book groups have to be super formal or anything. All you have to do is find at least one other person who shares the love of reading, and schedule some of your time with them to read and discuss books. Discussion does not hone your writing skills like editing does, but it does give you the benefit of directly comparing your own opinions to those of someone else in a controlled situation. This in turn can help you overhaul your confidence.

Try to emulate craftsmanship and work ethic, not style

If you’ve felt serious about writing at some point in your life, you’ve probably had at least one writer that you idolized. It can be exceptionally difficult, when another person’s writing is ideal for you, not to try and start writing like them. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, which we’ll cover in more detail in the next section, especially if it’s fun for you. But trying to write like someone else, intentionally or unknowingly, can make you worry about small details in an arbitrary and unnatural way. (This obviously doesn’t apply if your primary goal is to write fan fiction.)

At the same time, you can’t just stop your feelings of adoring someone else’s writing, and you might feel pressured to to do something about this worship.

If you are in this situation, try this: Instead of emulating the style of this other writer, think about what he actually accomplishes with his writing and try to emulate this.

For example, maybe your favorite writer writes a new book every year. It is a goal that you could achieve on your own. Or maybe they write hard-hitting microfictions that never go beyond a page. Try to place your own work within these limits. Feel free to try whatever you find fun and desirable. Limitations that don’t really define your job can be useful and exciting.

If you imitate the style, try applying it to a different format

I went through a period when I was really in the news of George Saunders. I took a copy of In Persuasion Nation with me wherever I went for about a year. During this time, I also wrote a few satirical articles for a local zine that a colleague of mine had started. These articles were about real issues – one was about gentrification in the neighborhood where I lived. But because I had the Saunders stories in my head, I always thought about his stories as I wrote, and felt like I was making up my own Saunders characters as fictional narrators for my articles.

I later realized that my narrators were actually quite different from his, stylistically and in other ways. But the energy he gave off was to push the ridiculousness of capitalism to its logical extreme, and that’s what I was doing too. I was inspired, but not actively imitating, not as I expected. My satire was light fiction, inventing fake people to comment on real-life situations. I think if I had tried writing short stories in a more purely fictional world, I would have fallen into the trap of trying to emulate Saunders’ style in a more sincere and less useful way.

When applying a writing style to a different format, you have to struggle with the translation of the feeling from writing to a new situation. Which can kind of force originality and creativity whether you notice it or not. You have to isolate the core of what you love about a piece of writing and try to make it your own.

So maybe try applying what you like about someone’s poetry to your fiction. Try to apply what you like about someone’s fiction to your review. The result could be not only something that makes you happy, but something that is more you that you are waiting.

Proofread and keep the books you love visible

It may sound like an obvious suggestion, but it is a suggestion that I am guilty of. Often times, I don’t reread books that I would swear continually inspire me because I’m too focused on finding new things.

However, I’ve been better at it at times, and I’ve noticed that these are a few things that make the difference.

Sometimes just the act of carrying a book you love can encourage proofreading and inspiration. This may be less relevant in the age of e-readers, but you can also keep pushing the same beloved book to the top of your reading queue so it doesn’t just sit at the bottom of your stack. digital.

Another option is to create some kind of special shelf, area on your desk, etc., where you keep the books that you consider important to your life as a writer. This can not only encourage you to proofread, but help you remember your own goals and create a positive atmosphere for your writing.

Remind yourself at least once a day what exactly you are trying to do

One continual writing tip that I hear over and over again is something like “write a little bit every day.” To me, that can be generously extended to “read a little of your own handwriting every day,” and even that sometimes seems almost impossible.

For this suggestion, I’m talking about the writing that is most important to you. If you have a daily job writing content or texts, but your real ambition in life is to write poetry, then I’m talking about the latter. It is possible to do all kinds of writing simultaneously and be happy. It doesn’t sell you. But it’s your dedication to writing that matters most to you that makes all channels work. It’s easy to forget, especially when you’re just trying to survive mentally and physically, what you really hope to get out of it all.

My opinion is that this advice doesn’t have to be about performing physical writing. It’s about reminding yourself of what you are doing. What is the long term plan. It can mean writing one word or a thousand words. It might mean rereading part of your novel every day until you’re done. It may mean just sitting quietly for a few minutes and thought on the plot of your short story.

It’s this return to your purpose, this dedication, that can keep you going for years to come when things don’t seem to really be working out. And whether you realize it or not, your writing will grow and mature all the time, as long as you don’t neglect it completely. Or, honestly, even if you do it occasionally, because writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and it can grow and mature as you do.


None of the above suggestions are meant to be a panacea or apply to everyone. But I hope they give you some ideas to stay inspired.


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