Have You Tried This Reading Thing?
No, really. Have you tried this reading thing? It’s great. Really great. I spent most of the last week reading the Hunger Games (this includes a lot of the time I was at work…and I assure you, it is very difficult to read a book and wait tables at the same time). It was something of a revelation for me. Or maybe more of a reminder. “Hey, Rachel,” it was saying, “You used to be like this all the time. You used to be like Belle in ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ tripping over stuff because your nose was stuck in a book.”
And it’s true. I used to read at least one book a week, sometimes two (though I seldom reached the threshold of three like I did this week). I could barely put down one book before I reached for another, ad when I was younger, I didn’t even wait that long. I got halfway through one book and started another, reading up to three simultaneously, which, I admit, is a bit much. The point is, I used to read a LOT. And now I don’t. Which begs the question: What happened?
Growing up didn’t help. Having bills to pay, a relationship to nurture, friends not to neglect, and a job (although I guess we know by now that this doesn’t necessarily stop me from reading) are all big hindrances. But I think that the biggest roadblock has actually been my writing. After grad school ended and I decided to concentrate on writing my novel and I no longer had assigned (albeit excellent) reading to attend to, I guess I just stopped reading. Not altogether, but certainly with any zest. If I was at home (or anywhere, really) with any time on my hands, I felt like I ought to be working on the book. Where I used to keep a novel or two in my purse, I kept a blank book and a heap of pens instead. I just felt guilty if I was reading. I kept telling myself that I should be writing, instead.
Which is ridiculous, if you think about it. We writers write because we love to (or need to), but we only came up with the idea because we love to read (or ought to, anyway — anyone who doesn’t like reading has absolutely NO business being a writer). To ignore books as a writer is like being an actor who doesn’t go to the theater (which is why I gave up acting, btw; I much prefer movies). It’s just counterproductive.
I had a professor while I was in grad school and during my short-lived stint reading for a PhD, James Ryan, who is a brilliant teacher and gave me one of the most useful pieces of advice on writing that I have gotten to date. Being a writer, he said, is one part reading, one part writing, and one part living. None of the parts are more important than the others. Like I said, the man’s brilliant.
So I guess the point of all this is to say that this past week has reminded me why I wanted to write in the first place. I freakin’ love books. LOVE them. And I swear, here and now, on this blog post, to the vastness that is the internet, and the significantly smaller (but more important) population that makes up actual readers of this blog, that I will never again neglect my books. I feel like a better person when I read, a better writer, and a hell of a lot happier.
Also, I’m going to use this as an opportunity to plug the books that brought on this epiphany. If you haven’t read The Hunger Games trilogy, you are wasting your time not reading them. Drop everything and find a copy. Do it now. I’m not kidding. Go. Now. Shoo.