Friday, February 02, 2007

Must Love Books

Looking back, I should have known I needed to be a writer in elementary school. Even then I was writing stories - wrote the class play in fourth grade and used to entertain the class at story hour with my own stuff. I kept writing some through junior high, high school and college and even gave it a bit of a shot after college and once I'd entered the workforce full time, but I don't think I had anything to say that was publishable until now. But the desire was always there, in the back of my mind, in the depths of my soul, just waiting for the time to burst out.

To my relatives who grew up around me - my writing books probably comes as no surprise. After all, I had my nose in one every time they looked at me. It started with Dr. Seuss. My mom got one of those subscriptions that came in the mail one book a month and she read to me. Soon she realized, I'd memorized the books quickly and was "reading" to myself. It only got worse from there.

Once I discovered the wonderful land of books, you couldn't get me out of them. I read books in the car, I read books in bed, books in the living room, books outside on the porch. Tried to read a book in church - got in trouble for that one. And read books during dinner - my mom fought this one valiantly but finally gave up. In fact, I was so far ahead of my high school English class that my teacher let me read because she wasn't covering anything I didn't already know.

Vacation was a grand time! We took beach vacation - always to Destin, Florida, which is absolutely gorgeous and guess what I took with me - books. I came out toting a carrying bag one time with a load of books in it and my dad looked inside and said "why in the world are you bringing all these books. You're not going to read them all." I just said "wanna bet." And mind you, I wasn't carrying a load of short sweet romances back then. My bag was loaded down with Tom Clancy, Agatha Christie, Tolkein (I was revisiting The Lord of the Rings), Michael Chricton and some others. I remember that one trip I had sixteen books in total and before the end of the six days, I needed to go to the bookstore for more.

So you can imagine my disbelief when every once and a while I get into a conversation with someone about writing and they say "I have an idea for a book I'd really like to write someday" then follow this statement up later on with "But I really don't like to read at all."


Why in God's name would you want to attempt an extraordinarily difficult career if you don't like to read????? Now, don't get me wrong, I am not exactly passionate about numbers but I'm a damned good accountant. But that's different. I can make a good living as an accountant without loving what I do. But you have to be passionate to write a book or it will never sell. And you have to be passionate about continuing to write books for a long, long time because it could take years before you show a profit from writing above the money you're spending pursuing it.

Maybe people are confused and think all writers make a lot of money, sit by beaches to write and are so famous they don't have to do things like pump their own gas. Maybe people think because they have a computer and can type, they can write. Maybe they've read a book sometime in their life and because it looked easy they made the mistake of thinking it was. Maybe they think as long as they have an interesting story that technique doesn't matter, so why spend all those years perfecting it.

Maybe they're wrong. No, definitely they're wrong.

Despite a fulltime day job, a fulltime writing job (complete with an April 1st deadline) and a husband, home, three dogs and three cats, and other family nearby, I still manage to read 3-4 books a week. Now, I'll admit, I read a lot of category while I'm writing a rough draft. I don't read in genre because I don't want it to affect my voice, but the reality is, reading books is one of the most important ways to stay motivated to write books.

Let's face it, there's far more reasons to stop writing than to continue. Good Lord the list for stopping wouldn't fit on a roll a paper that stretches a city block. The reasons for continuing are far more simple, far more personal, and a lot less in volume. But they're more important. And I'd hazard a guess that for every writer out there, one of their reasons for writing is because they love to read.


Wendy Roberts said...

OMG, Jana, I've had people say this to me as well! It always leaves me speechless. You're absolutely right that nobody could do this job (well) unless they have a passionionate love for the written word.

Not to mention the fact that from first draft, edits, etc to shelf you have to read your own book about, what, 7 times?

Kelly Parra said...

Great post, Jana! I always had a strength in English and creative writing but it never clicked that I could one day write a book. It just wasn't in the plans or probably even a possibility.

I know when I did start writing, I don't think anyone thought I could really do it, either. So it was a great personal success when I finally did. =D

Yes, I read 2-3 books a week. It works the mind and the imagination!

Tori Lennox said...

All I really have to add is a hearty "Amen, sister!" :)

I read at least four to five books a week. Sometimes more, depending on length.

Jana DeLeon said...

Wendy - you only reread 7 times - wow, I knew you had talent. I was figuring more like 30-50. :)

kelly - not only are you doing it, but you're doing it well IMHO and pretty soon, the whole world can get a glimpse of your talent. Are you counting the days, yet??? :)

tori - I wish I had time to read more. I remember the 8-10 a week days. But hey, I wasn't writing then either.

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