Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Summertime and the Reading Is Easy

While summer doesn't officially begin until the third week in June, here in the US the summer season usually runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, so that puts us right at the start. I don't know about you, but for me summer is only second to the holidays as far as distracting me from my writing. While having kids under foot is a not-so-distant memory, there are still far more things I want to do than in the winter, like garden, hang out at the beach, and outdoor entertaining, not to mention the things I have to do like weed and clean out the garage while the weather is warm. In the winter you can't drag me out of the house at night, but in the summer who wants to sit behind a laptop when I could be at an outdoor concert or simply ensconced on the patio with a lemonade or something stronger.

Does that mean my writing life comes to a grinding halt? Only if typing words on a page is all there is to it. I happen to believe, and many an accomplished writer will back me up, that reading well is an important part of writing well. So, in that sense, summers away from my laptop don't have to be a waste. When I'm out there on the patio with drink in hand, I can have a book in the other.

Of course, for many summertime is associated with"beach reading", and "beach reading" is associated with throw-away novels. To me, if a book isn't worth keeping, it isn't worth reading. In fact, it takes me longer to slog through some formulaic thriller than it would––well, War and Peace would be an exaggeration––but certainly Anna Karenina. I absolutely hate books that are poorly written, and the times I've had to stick one out because I'd promised to review it, have been excruciating. So I use my summer to read the good stuff.

Summer is also a great time to read "a few sample issues" of those literary journals I'm considering submitting to. They travel quite nicely in a beach bag or I can print out a few stories online and take them with me. Short fiction fits nicely into summer because I can read an entire story during a break from my gardening or after I've finished and before dinner.

For those who do have kids home from school, try reading them the classics at night. I used to do that with my daughter. We started with Winnie the Pooh and Charlotte's Web, then went onto the Brontes and Thomas Hardy. It's hard these days for youngsters to stick with the wordiness of some of those older novels. Often, though, they can appreciate someone else doing the reading. It calms kids down after the stimulation of a summer day, and you get to re-visit books you haven't read in years. I know I got a totally different perspective on some of them.

So if you find writing a challenge in the balmy days of summer, try reading instead. Come September you'll be even more inspired.

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