I remember the first time an Amazon box was delivered to the house and it wasn’t addressed to me. My daughter was ordering and paying for her own books.
The torch had been passed and I, in true mother fashion, was verklempt.
I’ve always been an avid reader – I’m kind of a word junkie. Other people are foodies; I am a wordie.
I would have Dictionary.com on speed dial if we still had speed dial. In full disclosure, I actually do read the dictionary from time to time. I love the urban dictionary websites and admire people who make up clever new words.
Like biblioholism, which I saw on a tee shirt years ago. It’s the habitual longing to purchase, read, store, admire, and consume books in excess. Yeah, baby.
I crave books the way most women crave ice cream. I’m pretty sure heaven will be a Borders book store. At the beach. With coffee.
This is my office bookshelf.
I promised my family I would only keep as many books as would fit on this bookshelf, but I never said anything about how they would be stacked.
It’s that kind of book, it gets loaned out, added to my “Loaned to…” list, and I wait like a minivan mom in the school pickup line for a glimpse of my errant child.
Words are my life.
I live and breathe by them. I haggle over their meaning. I ruminate over the right turn of phase.
As a child, a great-aunt returned my first letter to her with red corrections. It didn’t stop me from writing, only writing specifically to her.
Writing my dissertation, knowing it would be dissected by a mentor, a sponsor, and an entire committee who at one point actually said, “start over” was torture for me.
And yet, it never occurred to me to stop writing.
So, how do you become a better writer?
1. Read fiction.
Reading imaginary stories or historical fiction will train your mind to be more creative. You’ll learn the habit of “what if?” and appreciate a writer’s ability to transport you to a world you’d swear was real, simply with words. It’s a way to appreciate art without your eyes.
Read books you can’t put down, even if “just one more chapter” will take you past midnight. Thank you Nelson DeMille, John Grisham, and Jim Bishop.
2. Read non-fiction.
While fiction will make you a better reader, non-fiction will make you smarter. You’ll improve your reading skills and your knowledge at the same time. Choose topics you don’t think interest you – you might surprise yourself.
Read publications like The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Smithsonian, and The Economist.
3. Read all the time.
Soak in the words. Find an author whose style turns you on and roll around with the chapters like a wanton lover. Let your books sweet-talk you into laying around in bed with them on a blissful, rainy, Sunday afternoon.
Read two books on the same subject and compare how each author expresses a similar point.
If you read a few paragraphs of your favorite author before you begin to write, it will inspire you and a little of their writing style will stick to yours.
4. Read a book a week.
For bibliophiles like me, this ends up being de rigueur. At any given time, I am plowing through an ever-shifting stack of books. Mostly, I read non-fiction so I don’t read my books one at a time and I don’t read the chapters in order.
But I read them. Sometimes several times.
I write in them, highlight them, and take notes in the margin. By the end, we are intimate friends.
Writing is the process of stringing words together.
You can do that succinctly or loquaciously. It can be rhythmic, shocking, and lovely.
Select words that have their own personality. When someone uses a word I’ve never heard, I ask them what it means and savor the new beginning. Collect words that are fun to say, like pueblo, diaphanous, and gigawatt. Ease them around your tongue like good chocolate.
Reading will always, always make you a better writer. Fall in love with reading and watch it bubble over into your own writing like sparkling champagne and oxygen.