I often worry that I might be spending too much time reading, and not enough time writing. Perhaps I should put aside the biography I’m halfway through, or at least not start a new book until I have finished writing my children’s book. Then I come to my senses.
Reading is not just a pastime for me. Some books offer an escape from my monkey mind, or transport me to another time and place, which is probably why many people read. I read for a different reason: to make sense of it all – what it means to be human, relating to others, trying to find some meaning along the way.
Looking back on the reading I did as a child, I see the foundation for much of what I might call my character. I learned to appreciate our differences from Stuart Little. I noticed the green growing things around me after reading The Secret Garden. I felt a connection to animals and bugs after reading Charlotte’s Web. I started to enjoy my chores while reading Little House on the Prairie. And I yearned to serve others in a useful way after finishing the Anne of Green Gables series.
The insights and clarity I have acquired from adult fiction and nonfiction can’t be so easily summarized. Some poetry has moved me to memorize its lines so I don’t forget its truth. In novels, I have sympathized with characters in their struggles, realizing and cementing values that shape the choices I make. Mostly I have learned that we are all imperfect, with flaws and scars, seeking connection.
Because I write for the very same reason, to make sense of it all, any reading I do nourishes my writing. When I have seen myself on the page in a book, I can more easily put myself on the page I am writing. I don’t believe that my heavy reading habit is stealing time away from writing. The two are as connected as heart and mind, so I’m going to keep on reading.
Carolyn and Leah