Monday, September 2, 2019

A Book Junkie Reveals Her Habits

Q: Where do you normally read? In bed? A favorite chair? Listen to audio when commuting?

-from Susan

I have a shelf of books I am reading on the table next to my bed: one novel; a book about human evolution or geology, for example; a book of poetry; a copy of the Tao te Ching. The first changes rapidly, the poetry stays until I’ve read one poem per night, the Tao is there to pull me back from “monkey mind” when I need it.  Like many people though, by the time I get to bed I’m already tired, which may account for the fact that I finished a highly-touted spy thriller last month and realized I did not understand what the hell happened at the end. I find that reading one of Mary Oliver’s poems right before turning out the light is not only a lovely way to wind down but that the poem stays with me better than if it had to compete with the avalanche of words that bombard me all day.

I read at the dinner table many nights, fiction and non-fiction, and those books have the food stains to prove it. I have one of those acrylic stands that keep the pages from turning on their own, but I have to take the book out to turn the pages so it’s not really helpful. A dinner knife resting crossways across the open book is okay. Haven’t found a good system after 10 years but I’m still trying. The non-fiction I read there is sometimes so upsetting (climate change, the loss of animal habitat, attacks on civil rights, etc.) that I will not take it into my bedroom, where it would keep me awake all night. I need the comfort of good food to take the edge off fury.

When I had long commutes to and from my jobs, I read (first, on tape, then CDs) and loved it. Now I hop in the car for short times so it doesn’t work. Someone recently recommended I get some wireless tech device that would allow me to listen while gardening. Nice idea, but gardening is my meditation and I guard that. Maybe if I start walking seriously again…

The point is, I read, read, read as every author does. Reading is still the best way to learn how to write and I’m still learning. It’s also a window into someone else’s brain, heart, and intellect and what a gift that is!

I signed some copies of my books at the recent Book Passage Mystery Writers  Conference:


Paul D. Marks said...

Susan, you're definitely right about reading being the best way to learn to write. But I've heard tales that a lot of people who aspire to be writers don't actually read or read much. But hopefully those are just tales.

Susan C Shea said...

Paul, then their aspirations aren't really serious, are they? I think I've shared this advic a hundred times, in every presentation, panel, blog post where I can squeeze it in.