Saturday, January 19, 2008

Reading, Writing, and Visiting an Old Friend

By Keith Fisher

Reading is life’s blood for a writer. There are a few who claim reading other people’s work stifles their own creativity, but most writers will agree that reading is one of the best ways to become a better writer.

To this end, I have an ever-growing list of books to read; books I’ve heard about, books written by people I know personally, books written in my chosen genre. There are reference books, non-fiction books, and research, not to mention the magazines.

With so many things to read, and limited time to do it, I’m selective. I read the first lines, perhaps the first chapter of something and if it doesn’t grab my attention, I move on, vowing to come back and finish reading the rejected work, but somehow I never get back.

The pile of rejected books in my library caught my attention the other day. In the pile, there were great books, some by neglected writer friends. Some were manuscripts I promised to edit, others were books that should be thrown out (I can never bring myself to destroy the printed word). Anyway, I think I need to follow the example of Bill Gates. I’ve heard that he makes a stack of things he wants to read then he takes a couple weeks in retreat and does nothing but read from the stack.

Since I don’t have a retreat in Seattle, or the time to take off, I better stop adding to the pile. I need to read everything and help edit the works of those who have helped me by reading my stuff. I can’t take time to savor anymore—I need to read faster.

Okay, you caught me, I know I’ll never catch up, but maybe I can prioritize. I’ll just make more stacks and stop adding to them . . . you see the problem don’t you?

When I looked at my stack again I found an old friend. It was my missionary copy of the scriptures, dog-eared and used with torn pages, some pages with holes, all with hand written notes on them. I once called those scriptures my most valued possession.

I use new scriptures now, but they don’t fall open at the slightest touch of my hand like the others. Passages don’t seem to be in the same places, and I fight the pages trying to find what I’m looking for.

Perhaps there’s a metaphor here, but I’ll let you decide what it is. Tonight, I’m going to visit an old friend. Good luck with your writing and I’ll see you next week.

1 comment:

Rebecca Talley said...

I know exactly what you mean, Keith. I have an ever-growing stack, too. I wish I could read faster.