I was always a bright student. That sounds arrogant. It’s not meant to be, it’s just fact. I was a straight A student all the way through school, with the exception of a handful of classes in college. I graduated at the head of my class in graduate school. Book learning, school, has always been easy for me. That’s provided me with a distinct advantage in many areas of my life. I learn easily. I tend to learn intuitively about many many things, such that I often skip from step A to step Z without a lot of stops in between. It’s just how my brain works. It often makes it difficult for me to explain to others how to do things–because I wind up skipping vital steps that, for me, are perfectly obvious. One unexpected side effect of this skip pattern is that when it comes to writing–it doesn’t work so well. Writing is not generally a completely intuitive process–even if you have a natural gift for using the language, a flair for the dramatic, a sense of pacing and style–there’s always going to be something you don’t know. And the only way to learn how to do the things you don’t know, is to both practice them and to read.
I don’t devote nearly enough time to reading. Not since I got out of grad school and took on the mantle of two jobs. Oh, how I miss the free time I had in school. I may not be using my brain as much now as I did then, but my time in general is much more structured and full. And reading has been the thing to go most of the time. Heather Sellers in Chapter After Chapter talks about doing the Book 100 (the name being taken from the pilates exercise I loathe). This is considerably easier on the abs. The idea is to read 100 books before you start to write. The point is, that at the end of those 100 books, you’ll have a sense for pacing and dialogue and all the things that make a book work (or not work). We all know I won’t be that patient, but at Pot’s encouragement I am trying to make reading more of a priority. I began making a list of everything I know I’ve read this year. There are others that were old standbys that I’m not counting because I’ve read them before. And there are others still that I read, forgot, and took to the used bookstore already. I made a page for my Book 100. There are 17 books listed there so far, which is more than I thought I’d read this year, but hey, it’s a start.