What I've always been told, what I always knew to be true but didn't put into practice until recently: giving yourself wholly over to every kind of literary pursuit, literally becoming one with all things bookish (by this i mean reading the best works written by the best writers, talking about the relative merits or non-merits of these works with people who care about literature just as much as you do, identifying what works and doesn't work in these celebrated works, thinking & critically discussing these points, opening your narrow focus to include still more writers and thinkers and ideas) leads to the holy grail for any serious writer -- better writing. My work has reached a new level that I'm both happy with and challenged by. I feel it is directly attributable to the raising of the bar that is inherent whenever you place yourself in the arena of such discussion and when you place your work alongside the very works you fall in love with and/or despise and see how you stack up. You cannot help but want to make your own work better, more ambitious, more of everything you find you love in the work you are consistently reading. I know. Nothing new. And you're not really the audience that needs convincing. But when you see the effects of this hard work (this reading and reading and reading while also trying to write and write and write), it is powerful. So powerful that I advocate it for all writers, knowing full well I'm not the first to do so. I just never took that advice seriously. Now that I see how my reading & critical discussions of this reading has informed my own work - I want to shout it from the skyscraper-tops. Read. Widely. Now.
24 April 2007
The holy grail
Callie of Counterbalance says a mouthful: