Thursday, September 27, 2012

Inspiration or Intimidation

All writers are supposed to read. That's one way we're suppose to learn about the craft. I feel like I've read many books in my day. Not as many as some, but more than most. So I feel I have a good amount of source material to draw upon. But now that I've started writing seriously, I find it harder to read. But perhaps more important that I do so.
 (Aside: Just started a new great book by my favorite author Tad Williams: The Dirty Streets of Heaven)

Now when I read I study the writing. It's not just about the story anymore. I can't just get lost in the ideas and characters and forget the rest of my world. That's what I used to like about books. Now I can't help but notice the syntax, ponder the chosen point of view, analyze the description vs. dialogue ration. For most books this is fine, I'm getting what I need out of them. I'm advancing myself as a writer.

But for the books I really love, I just want to be a reader. I want to turn off my writer's brain and just enjoy them for the beautiful creatures they are. But even that comes with its price.
(Second aside: just picked up the electronic version of one of my past favorites, Neil Gaiman's American Gods)

Reading a great book is inspiring. It makes me want to create something as wonderful. It puts ideas in my head that I can grow and morph into something that's my own. It creates characters that I want to know and shows me how to give my own people more depth and reality. Great books are what we all aspire to, even if we don't achieve it.

But great books can also intimidate. When I read a normal book, one I'm studying to learn from, I often feel like I can do that. I can make something as good as that. But when I read great books I'm not so confident. I don't think I'll ever match Crime & Punishment, the complexity of the Otherland series is mind boggling. It's simply beyond me.

How do I deal with this disincentive? I remember that I'm still learning. I'm still improving. I don't know how much better I'll get, and I'll probably never match the work of those I most admire, but it's possible. I hang onto that hope. And I realize that I don't have to achieve immortal fame and great wealth to be a success. I look back to the merely good books and trust that I can do that. I have faith that I can write a decent book, worthy of publishing and something that will be enjoyed by many.

It's a corny expression but it holds true: if you aim for the stars you might only reach the moon. But how cool would it be to walk on the moon!

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