How I Finally Finished a Book by A Shameful Writer

Saturday, September 03, 2016

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” 

“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Both of those quotes are by the great Stephen King, whether you like him or not, read his books or don't, he gives practical and sage advice to writers. I've had the time to read. I've started countless wonderful books by amazing authors, but I haven't been able to get through them for one reason or another--mostly due to my divorce, maybe due to exhaustion from anemia (which I just discovered I had) and single parenthood. But I hadn't finished a book in ages. It's embarrassing. I am a writer after all, and I wasn't reading.

I had this conversation with my neighbor one day--she loves to read. She handed me the book Me Before You, and said, "This is a great book. You will get through this. It's a movie right now." (I'll admit I'm so out of touch with movies for adults that I didn't even know this!) That night, I started it. JoJo Moyes is a very good writer. She drew me in with her quirky main character, Louisa Clark, and the surly hero, Will Traynor. But as I started reading along, and got to maybe page 100, my usual pattern took over. I was reading maybe 1 or 2 pages a night before I fell asleep or thought of a reason to check Facebook. I was sure I knew what was going to happen, and I felt disappointed, and didn't really want to read just another love story.

But one night when I read my obligatory pages (to not feel like a total heel), there was a conversation between Lou and her sister Treena that was so well-written, I fell back in love with the book. Then I read some of the back material about why JoJo wrote the book, and I told myself: give it a chance. One day this past week, I was in bed with a cold, and I read 166 pages to finish this book. When I finished, I was so in love with the story and the ending that I rented the movie On Demand, which I have literally never done before in my life. 

And I'll have you know since then, I've already started two more books--a self-help book, where the author wants you to read one exercise a week, and the new Harry Potter play--on page 45 already! 

So what happened? I found a good writer. I found a good writer that brought me into her story world and made me fall in love with these two characters even though things might not have ended the way I would have written the story. She made me think about life. She made me think about love. She made me think about what is really important, and she gave me back my belief that love is possible even under the worst circumstances. I know that sounds like a lot for one book, but that's the thing about books--they really do change the world.

So even though I titled this post--by a shameful writer, I'm not as shameful about reading as I was a week ago, and I'm praying this continues because I think I'm on the road to a writing/reading recovery. I feel myself taking baby steps and it feels good. 

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, and teacher, living in St. Louis, MO. You can find out more about her and her books at and her writing class in the WOW! classroom here. 


Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--I did not read the book but I did enjoy the movie. I am really glad you found a book that made you fall in love with reading again.

Can you do audio books? I can't, but I've heard people who have busy lives listen to them in their car while driving. I'm not sure if you have a commute to work where you're in the car alone. Probably not, I guess.

(A completely unrelated note: Mary Karr is coming to the St. Louis County Headquarters--I think on Sept. 8th--and she's written a book on memoir writing. Have you read "Lit" or "Cherry"? You might enjoy her talk.)

Two novels I keep recommending are "The Invention of Wings" by Sue Monk Kidd and "Freeman" by Leonard Pitts, Jr. They are two of the best I've read in a long, long time.

Keep reading. You might just read yourself into an even better place... through the healing powers of the written word.

Margo Dill said...

Sioux: Thanks for all these recommendations, including the heads up about Mary Karr. I will see when she is in town or maybe check out her books. :) Have a great weekend. (I have started a book list on my phone--meaning that when someone recommends a book, I put it on this list on my phone. I am determined to get over this hump and I am almost there!)

Angela Mackintosh said...

Margo, I have to admit, I'm the same way. I start out reading 100 pages the first night and then one chapter a night the next week, and then I either get back into it and finish it in one night or I abandon it. I'm reading In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware right now and I'm in the dead center of the book at a slowdown. I think I'll finish this one though because I have to find out why Nora is in the hospital and what happens at the hen party! This book has completely polar opposite ratings--over a thousand reviews and they are either five stars or one star. I've really enjoyed it so far and like her writing.

Me Before You was actually on my list. I try to read all the big books of the year, especially before they are made into movies. (In a Dark, Dark Wood is set to be made into one as well.) I was worried that Me Before You would be too much of a straight romance for me to enjoy, but you changed my mind. I have The Girls by Emma Cline next, and then I'll add yours to the queue.

Mary Karr would be great to see. Did you see Brooke Warner's interview with Mary? It's a riveting and inspiring discussion about memoir writing. If you get a chance, check out the video:

You will get over the hump!

Margo Dill said...

Thanks, Ang! I think you will be pleasantly surprised by Me Before You!

Margo Dill said...

Thanks for the book suggestions!

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