At the dinner table yesterday my family and I got into a discussion about what we were “crazy about”.
“I’m crazy about skateboard!” my eldest son said.
“And I’m crazy about Pokemon!” my youngest son said.
My wife looked across the table at me and before I even had a chance to open my mouth, she said “And you’re crazy about books!”
I’d never thought about it before, but she’s right. I can’t travel anywhere, even if it’s just a short bus ride across town, without a book. I can’t go to sleep unless I’ve opened the book on the bedside table and at least made a bleary-eyed attempt at a couple of paragraphs. I can count the number of times I’ve entered a bookshop and come out empty-handed on the pages of “A Snorkelling Guide to Norway”.
I read a blog post not so long ago by a British TV drama writer who said something to the effect that when he first started writing professionally he gave up reading fiction. He sacrificed one passion to be able to pursue another. This seems to go against the grain of all the popular advice that to be a writer you have to write a lot and READ a lot.
I’ve been in something of a writer’s rut for a couple of years. During this time I’ve started and abandoned several writing projects. I’ve got boxes, notebooks and files with ideas for screenplays, novels and plays that have started with a bang and then fizzled out after a couple of weeks, days or hours. I’ve followed all the advice and tips – I’ve tried writing from prompts, I’ve tried freewriting, clustering, brainstorming, storm writing, writing with the non-dominant hand, but nothing really works.
If I take a closer look at my wife’s observation that I’m crazy about books, it’s more accurate to say that I’m crazy about stories. Preferably in book form, but I’ll settle for a good film, play or TV series as a close second best.
So, what if I made the decision to stop reading – to sacrifice my passion for consuming stories? Will this help me to clamber out of my writer’s rut and find my way back to being a producer of stories instead? Has anyone else out there tried this?
I’m currently reading “Stormbird” by Conn Iggulden, a hefty historical novel set in England/France during The War of the Roses. I intend to finish it, but once I’m done I’m going on a reading diet.
My wife is sceptical. She believes I’m hopelessly addicted to reading. Maybe she’s right, but I have to take up the gauntlet and give it a try. So, once I’m done with “Stormbird” I’ll start documenting my progress.
Back at the dinner table I asked my wife what SHE was crazy about.
“I’m not crazy about anything”, she said. “I’m just CRAZY!”