Island Life, Word Birds & Process
Theoretically, I need never buy another book. If I live to be a hundred (my plan) I won’t run out of books to read.
If you ask me to count how many books I’ve given away over the years, I can do so on the fingers of one hand. Every room in my small flat is lined with books. There’s a bookcase by the front door (it holds my ‘crime’ collection) & my bedroom is home to several TBR piles. There are books in the bathroom & the kitchen; still more in my study. I’ve had some of my books since I was a little girl.
I buy books all the time; new & secondhand. Charity shops are great for when cash is short but new books are lush. The smell of them, the excitement of discovering them on the shelves of a bookshop. I like the sound of packages sliding through the letterbox too. Living in the sticks with a 50-mile round trip to the closest bookshop means sometimes, I order online. I look forward to the rap on the door, the smile on both our faces when my postman announces, ‘More books, love!’ I forgive him the endearment. He’s a nice guy & likes books too.
Since I’ve been published, I’ve met lots of writers – authors of brilliant books in a variety of genres & I’ve learned so much it makes my head spin. These people are my tribe & I buy their books. (Some of them buy mine too – who knew?!) New books keep me connected to fresh ideas & imaginative, inspiring writing.
It doesn’t mean I don’t still want to reread my old books. It’s a habit I’ve never outgrown. I read Jane Eyre every year & it makes my heart sing. Old books are depositories for stories that have lasted generations – thousands of years in some instances. They’re still around because of the quality of the writing. I have a fair number of these.
I hang on to my books. Find space for them because they’re worth it. And as a writer, I’m worth it too. Reading, for me, is essential. And I agree with whoever it was who said, writers need to read widely – across genres & out of their comfort zone. Stephen King – that’s the chap. He talks about how trying to write like a particular (usually famous) author results in ‘pale imitation.’
The books on my shelves cover most genres. If we read only the kind of books we write, we’ll stall, learn nothing & our writing will be the worse for it. It’s tempting, I get that, but variety in reading is essential if we are to improve as writers, regardless of the genre we choose to write in ourselves.
I think the reason is, there are seams of connection to be found in the books we read which, on the face of it, are nothing like the ones we write. Small things in & of themselves which we may not even realise we’re picking up on. It is, as they say, grist to our writing mill. Reading a crime thriller always teaches me something about pace & structure. And every time I reread Charlotte Brontë’s wondrous offering, if nothing else, I try a bit harder.
The book I have lined up as my next read was published in 1932. It’s Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. (Many of you will be familiar with it.) As I’m currently planning on conjuring ‘something nasty in the [cellar]‘ for #Book4, I’m sure it will prove helpful.
Read widely, dear writer – read your old books – & prosper.