Dry Spells

Dry SpellsA couple of months ago, my grandfather sent me a box full of books. I had been complaining about having nothing to read, and books are where we always find common ground. He has never suggested a book to me that I did not like, so as I opened the box, inhaled the smell of old books, and started to pull them out, I was feeling that unique high of a reader; anticipation and indulgence all swirled into one.

There were maybe 20-30 books in this box; I can’t even imagine what shipping must have cost him. I found homes for all of them on my shelf, and left the one that he had spoken the most about on my end table (Sailing Around the World, by Joshua Slocum). Around the same time, I had ordered 4 books from Chapters as a birthday present to myself, so, as you can imagine, I was inundated with reading material.

I should be through those books by now. I’m a fast reader, my evenings and weekends are free, and the only things that beg for my attention are my pets, who would gladly curl up next to me to enjoy a few quiet moments with a book. But I’m about 30 pages into Sailing Around the World, and it’s a good book; clever, full of dry humour, adventurous, and well-written. So why aren’t I finished?

It’s because, as sometimes happens to me, I am experiencing a dry spell. No book can hold my attention, not even Harry Potter or The Hobbit. I can’t re-read any of my old favourites. I can’t get caught up in a new bestseller. I can’t even finish a book that I started months ago. I don’t want to read in the evenings. I don’t want to read in the bath. I don’t want to read on a sunny weekend afternoon.

And it’s not that I have no desire to read, it is that nothing interests me right now. My brain is craving other forms of stimulation, regardless of how I feel about it. In some ways, it can be a blessing. When I read a book, when I become entranced by a story, I am a slave to it. I eat it, breathe it, sleep it. I physically crave it when I can’t read it. I will become so involved in it that I will read even when I only have 3 minutes to spare.

This makes me wonder if perhaps it is healthy to take breaks every so often, to lose that all-consuming feeling of curiosity and longing. After all, if I were to feel like that all of the time, it might drive me quite mad. Reading has become an addiction to me, and to abstain from it for a week or a month at a time can help me to clear my head.

I find that when I keep my distance from the pages, I am able to focus more on my own writing. Questions that have been floating around in my head for ages suddenly have answers and plots can be untangled. I have more time to explore other mediums that I relish, such as video games, movies, and theater.

And the strange thing is that during these dry spells, I do not miss reading. I do not gaze at the books on my shelf in exasperation or frustration. I do not feel as if I have lost anything, but instead, as if I am taking a vacation and will soon return to the routine that I know and love. I know that I will return to their pages soon, and that it will feel like home.

As I have said umpteen times, we are all different. How we read, how we write, and what inspires us are all individualistic experiences that help to shape and define us. There is no “right” way to read, and no “right” way to write. We are who we are, and there’s no one way to be a bookworm.

Do you ever have dry spells? Or do you read constantly? Do you take conscious breaks from books, or does it happen naturally?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

People Who Don’t Read

People Who Don't ReadAs much as I love to read, I also know that there are people who do not. There is a bit of nasty snobbery that attaches itself to some avid readers that makes them believe that people who do not enjoy books are sub-par. That anyone who doesn’t read the classics is perhaps uneducated or at a lower intellectual level than them.

You see content about why this person would never date someone who doesn’t read, or why that person wouldn’t be friends with anyone who didn’t like Harry Potter. It’s wonderful to have passion, but when that passion turns you into a closed-minded fool, well, you lose some of your shine.

I have friends who read casually, and friends who read fervently. I have friends who only read non-fiction, and friends who own two books total. My own husband isn’t a reader. But in experiencing the world with him, we have learned that it’s the format, not the story, that he doesn’t like. Give him a good fantasy movie or show, based off of a book that I have read, and he will appreciate it as much as I did.

Some people just aren’t given the opportunity or encouragement to read that a lot of us (myself, and a good number of my readers) were given. How many of us had books around the house? Likely most. How many of us had parents or grandparents or teachers who lit that fire within us? Would we be the same without that? Maybe not.

I personally never took to math. I can’t use tools to save my life. And I definitely get lost when trying to understand chemistry. But someone out there is just as passionate about those things as I am about books. And they are probably less likely to jump to conclusions than many a reader.

I don’t know if it is the personality, or simply the passion, that drives so many readers to pass judgement on others who don’t share their interests, but it’s quite disheartening. There are many ways to enjoy stories, and I like them in many different forms.

From audio books, e-books, and printed books, to video games, TV shows, and movies, I find pleasure in them all. Which medium we choose to receive stories is no one’s business but our own.

By limiting our dating or friendship choices to only people who read, we miss out on so many experiences. We limit our creativity, which to writers, is the very lifeblood of our profession. Why would you ever avoid letting certain people into your life over such a small thing? Yes, I read like I breathe, and I still said small.

Books tell stories, but stories are happening all around you. The only difference is that they aren’t solidified in print. Everyone has a story, and is part of a greater one. Whether they have a bookshelf or not shouldn’t be what deters you from opening your mind and following their thread.

So don’t be a reading snob. It’ll make you a poor writer, and an even poorer human being. Sure, books are great, but they are essentially just the written form of the human experience. Choose your medium, and allow others to choose theirs as well.

Do you know anyone who doesn’t read? Do you any reading snobs? Have you ever felt badly about how much or what you read because of a reading snob?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Do Writers Need Editors?

Do Writers Need Editors?Often, I come across writers who exude confidence in their grammar and spelling abilities. When they speak of books that they are writing, and I ask whether they are going to hire an editor, most just chuckle and say, “No, no! I’ll just go over the draft myself a few times!”.

I know multiple authors who published work without having it edited, and who now have printed books with mistakes in them. It doesn’t seem to bother most, but some seem to regret it.

And while deciding not to have an editor works well for some, it can greatly affect the success and popularity of your content. Whether or not that bothers you depends on your goals as a writer. If you have a story inside of you that you are bursting to tell, and all that matters is that you release it into the world, then perhaps you don’t need an editor. That is, if you are confident that you can at least edit it enough yourself that it will at least be legible.

But if you want to submit something to a publisher, or if you want to self-publish something that has the potential to be successful, then you need an editor. I guess you could assume that if you are writing in the hopes of becoming a full-time, professional writer, you need to start vetting editors. Whereas, if you are writing simply for pleasure, you can continue doing as you see fit.

The difference between an edited piece of work compared to one that hasn’t been looked it can be quite significant. At my job, since I write content for an international audience, everything that I write is reviewed by another writer/editor before it goes live. Does she find many mistakes? To be honest, no, she doesn’t. But she does find a few. And she also offers a lot of great suggestions that improve my work.

For example, you know that one sentence that you just couldn’t figure out? That one that caused you a lot of grief and that you just ended up leaving as is? Yeah, another writer/editor will have suggestions for that. They’ll have ideas for titles, names, places, reconstructions, and more.

It’s dangerous as a writer to think that your work cannot be improved. I have heard of famous writers who sometimes have regrets over the final published manuscript. If you think your work is in its perfect form without being reviewed by at least one professional, you will never improve your craft. Your work will never be the best that it could be.

The key is to find someone like-minded. If you hire a trained editor, choose someone who has experience in your genre, and who can mesh with your style. Many editors will edit a few pages for you as a way to give you an idea of what they will do, as well as to figure out how heavy of an edit you’ll need. If you don’t like one editor’s style, try another.

And don’t use money as an excuse either. There are tons and tons of writers and editors out there looking to network. You can find them on social media, blogs, and in forums. They are often willing to exchange services, so if you can find someone who has skills where you don’t, and who is willing to look over your work for free, take advantage of it. Trade services if you need to, exchange work with writer friends, but never feel that your work is ready as soon as you write it.

Don’t spend time complaining about an edit if you didn’t spend time vetting someone. Take your time in selecting the perfect person to review your content, and don’t forget that you don’t have to accept any changes that you don’t want to. But also remember that by opening up your mind, and by looking at your work differently, you could wind up with so much more than you started with.

So, in conclusion, yes, if you are submitting content to publishers, or if you are writing in order to build a career, you should have your work reviewed. Will mistakes still get by sometimes? Yes. It happens. But fewer than you would have.

And if you are writing for a hobby, or just because you enjoy it, then I still suggest you review your own work before sending it out into the world. You’d be amazed at the things you’ll find.

Do you have someone review your work before you publish it? How important is it to you to have “correct” content? Would you hire an editor if you were submitting content to a publishing house?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Writer Stereotypes

Writer StereotypesWe all know at least a few, and we could all probably tick off at least a box or two on the list. Many professions have them, but writing seems to be dipped, rolled, and packaged in them at times.

Writer stereotypes vary from pleasant to neutral to negative, and often people forget that, although we are indeed writers, we are still individuals. Undoubtedly, many started from popular culture; movies, books, and so on. Others were probably conceived by writers themselves, or families of writers who picked up on certain habits.

Some of the ones that I hear, and usually have to deflect, include:

Writers have cats. Now, this one I can’t personally deny as I do have one cat. But, I also have two dogs. We’re only supposed to have cats I think.

We’re addicted to coffee/tea. I do like a nice cup of tea in the mornings, but I do not need it to survive. In fact, if I miss out on it I don’t even notice. I don’t have a kettle set up next to my desk on a constant boil.

We have day jobs. When people hear “writer”, they usually think it means that we write books or that we are journalists. They forget about all of the other writing that sits in between, making them assume that we just write for fun and not for a living.

We all want to be famous. Sure, some of us do. But some of us don’t. We all have different reasons for writing, and different goals that we choose. Most of us write because it’s what we’re good at, and we’re just following wherever that path takes us.

We only write when inspiration hits. Hah. No. We write when we have to to pay the bills, to work out an issue with a story, or just because it’s comforting. Waves of inspiration are great, but those movies with writing montages are quite far from realistic.

We can write anything. Technically I suppose we can, but that doesn’t mean we’ll do it well. Some of us are really good at fiction, but not so comfortable with non-fiction. Some of us love dialogue and some of us struggle with it. Someone who can write a fantasy story might be terrible at a marketing brochure.

Writing doesn’t require an education. Sure, many many writers start from an early age. That’s true. But most who become successful still took at least a few courses in writing or editing or English at some point. Just have the desire to write doesn’t mean that you can do it well without honing your skills.

We’re broody. Yes, we all just sit around solemnly thinking to ourselves in dark rooms full of antique furniture. With our cats on our laps and ink staining our fingers. Give me a break. We’re humans. We can be broody, but no more than anyone else.

We’re mysterious. I can’t put my finger on this one, really. Are we mysterious because people don’t understand how we make a living, or are we mysterious because we are doing something that most of the world does, but better?

Aside from that, we all wear berets, we smoke a lot of cigarettes, we forget to eat, and we are devastatingly romantic. Right, guys?!

Which ones are actually true to you, and which bother you the most? Do you have any to add to the list?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time. Unless I’m too busy after I’ve downed this bottle of whiskey, two packs of smokes, and refilled my ink pot. (Kidding, just kidding).