Color Me (Unread) Red
You know those ties that come twisted around plastic bags? I untwist them, stuff them in a drawer in the kitchen, and never use them again.
Pretty much what I do with writing books. I order them, or occasionally win them, and then I stuff those gems on my real or virtual bookshelves where they gather real or cyber dust. It’s embarrassing.
I mean, I wanted those writing books. I spent good money on those books. (Well, except for the books I won. But even when I’ve won a book, I’ve spent my time, tweeting or blogging or spreading the word somehow. You can’t win a book these days just by leaving a comment.) So I’m left asking myself, “Why do I do this? Why don’t I read the book?”
And worse, some of these are dated market books; the material is applicable for one year, more or less. I was looking for a book on my shelf last night and I came across a Children’s Writer Guide for 2007. And I’d barely cracked open the book.
I know this because I’m a highlighter reader. Not in my fiction books, but in market guides or how-to write books, I mark up the pages so much, they practically shine with a golden gleam. So I stood there, holding that nearly pristine 2007 market guide, just fussing at myself. “Why, why, why Cathy? Why didn’t you read the book? What is wrong with you?”
I’ll tell you what I think is wrong with me. I’m like that kid whose eyes are too big for his stomach. I want to be the best writer I can be, and so I pile high the writing books, with every intention of reading each amazing word. And then I try a couple pages—and they’re good—but I’m full of ideas and rarin’ to go. So I put the book down and start writing.
Which is a little bit funny, right? I suppose my writing books succeed in one important way: they motivate me to write. But once I start writing, I rarely look back.
Still, when I stood there, holding that 2007 market guide (with all kinds of helpful articles included), I couldn’t help wondering. Would I be an even better writer if I actually, you know, read a couple of these writing books?
I think the answer is obvious. There are nuggets of writing wisdom to be found on my over-stuffed shelves. I’m challenging myself to find them among the books I already own. And I’m challenging you, too.
Now, don’t act like you’ve never bought a writing book and left it unread. So let’s get started on the “Writing Books Sitting on Your Shelf That Need To Be Read” challenge. I’m going with the Magazine Markets for Children’s Writers 2013, because, heck. (And this is really embarrassing.)
It’s already May.
~Cathy C. Hall