Conventional wisdom, handed down by authors through the ages, seems to be that in order to be a good writer you have to be a good reader as well. I know that’s true for me. Inspiration hits in all sorts of ways when I’m reading, whether it’s something I love wholeheartedly and can’t put down lest I stop devouring it and find myself going hungry, or something I’m critical of. In the first case my imagination runs wild with spin-offs and with backstory and with all sorts of ideas for things I can steal, I mean borrow and transform. In the second case my imagination still runs wild with spin-offs and backstory, and my perfectionist side — the part that edited professionally for many years — yearns to get in there with a red pen and fix the problems I’ve found. So yes, for me, any kind of reading is inspirational.
So is watching a well-written movie or TV show, although with the visual aspect I’m less likely to let my mind wander. Instead, I stay riveted to what’s being presented and only think about the what-ifs after the fact. The difference in mediums has been striking to me lately. Regular readers of this blog will know that I moved recently. As a result, I slowed down significantly on my reading for the year out of practicality and need: I can’t spend hours a day reading when I need to be unpacking or acquainting myself with the new area or any of the other minutiae of everyday life. I’d started a few books, all nonfiction, but they haven’t done much for me in the way of gripping my attention and watering that untended garden of my imagination.
Today I decided enough was enough. I started reading a new work of fiction, the second in a series by one of my publishers, and I’m enjoying this time to myself immensely. To me, when reading feels like a guilty pleasure, I know the moment is right for spending a little quality time with my Kindle, an old one inherited from my sweetheart when he moved along to reading on his tablet. I never thought I’d be able to give up the lure of a physical book in my hand. There’s something about the smell and the feel, about the seductive turn of pages… but I confess, I love the ease of my e-reader and the immediacy with which I can buy a new book.
That level of immediacy brings me back to the instant gratification of television. When a show is well-written, I will devour it. I’ve done that with a number of series, and while I can be stubbornly resistant to things that are currently en vogue, I’m not ashamed to admit to what I’m watching. Yesterday I plowed through half of Orange is the New Black and I’ll plow through the rest of it today and tomorrow. I’m still trying to decide if it was easier to watch the first three seasons of Breaking Bad episode after episode, all within just a few weeks, or if the waiting week to week makes it any easier to digest. There’s something about the anticipation that’s beautiful, but there’s also a lot of excitement that comes with binging on a show. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter. We see the thing in its entirety regardless, and the best shows are ones we can watch again and again, just like we can reread and enjoy the best books.
I get overloaded by visual media a lot more quickly than I do written media. Still, I’m glad my self-imposed hiatus on reading is over. In the spirit of things, please recommend me a fiction book! I’d like to know what all of you are reading and finding compelling these days.
Speaking of books, Happily Ever Afterlife is due out October 15. It’s a really fun anthology: eight reimagined fairy tales, each with an undead twist. One of them is mine. Look at our sweet little cover art! As soon as the e-book version is available I’ll post a link here.