Writing, Rather Than Reading

Next week, I begin teaching two 6-week classes on writing and as I prepare for the classes, I’ve been reviewing several text books and resources about writing.

One of the books I’ve spent a lot of time with is Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction. I’ve been re-reading sections of this book, first introduced to me in 1994 or so. (My copy is the 3rd Edition…I think she’s on #5 or #6 by now.)

Reading is an essential part of every writer’s life, but we live for those times when the work of others takes a back seat to our own fictional world.

Burroway’s book is a classic text for fiction writing. There are so many bits of wisdom that have become part of my everyday language for discussing fiction writing.

What I noticed today, though, was how many of the example stories I hadn’t read. As with most comprehensive fiction writing texts, Burroway includes a selection of short stories to complement her discourse on the craft of fiction story-telling. I remember reading several of the stories Burroway includes, back in my undergrad days, but as I look back through the book, now, I see several stories that catch my eye that I never read.

And it hit me.

At the time, I was a newby undergrad writer, with more stories on my plate than I knew what to do with. I had to actually choose which story I would turn in when it was my turn to go under the workshop knife, not to mention a novel I was writing well before I had any idea what it really takes to craft a novel.

In other words, I had plenty of writing on my mind and I didn’t read as much, right then. I read the assigned readings, but then went right back to writing.

This happened to me again in the first half of May. When I was in Wyoming at the Brush Creek Foundation artist residency, I had several books with me. I thought I would read a lot during the two-weeks I was there. Turns out, I didn’t. I wrote a lot, but every time I tried to read, my mind wandered. Over the entire two weeks, I think I only read about 200 pages or so. For me, that’s a slow pace, indeed.

I never stop reading, but it is a great feeling to be so lost in the world of my own fiction that other books are, temporarily, not so interesting. Reading is great. So is writing pages and pages of my own story.


5 thoughts on “Writing, Rather Than Reading

  1. Found an edition of Burroway’s book in the local library and picked it up on your recommendation–really glad to discover this! Already made some adjustments on account of her comments about ‘filtering’ and ‘flashbacks’. Thanks, Eric!

    • Yay! Glad to have recommended it. I’ve had that book since 1994, I think…maybe 1995…and I’ve returned to it on occasion, stealing sections of it for a fiction class I’m teaching now…It would probably be good to re-read the entire thing some time…I might just do it!

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