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On Other People’s Books: Wide Exposure

I started this week with a brief description of the Category Fiction class I took last fall. One of the big surprises in that story was how much I enjoyed the class.

The class’s merit wasn’t the only thing that caught me off-guard. I’d spent some time dreading all the driving I’d have to do, the scheduling necessary to work a Masters degree into my life…but it had somehow never occurred to me that I’d need to make time for homework.

Making Time to Read

The very first class period brought the reality crashing home, when the syllabus spelled out in dreadful detail the semester’s workload: three big papers, nine little papers, and (as I mentioned) eleven novels in need of reading.

That last one took me most by surprise. The papers didn’t worry me too much. I write all the time. It’s what I do.

The thought of reading a novel a week was more than a little intimidating, though. Over the course of the semester I ended up reading as many novels as I’d read in the previous six or seven years combined.

That’s a pretty dreadful statistic for a novelist. I’d justified it in a handful of ways, mainly by insisting that I spent every bit of reading time I could find on writing instead. I was also reviewing unfinished manuscripts (my own and others’), devouring short-form non-fiction by way of the internet, and maintaining a writing advice blog to help all the novice writers out there trying to find their voice.

With all that on my plate, it was a real challenge just to find time to read the new Pratchett novels when they came out one or two a year. Anything else was just impossible.

Didactic Literature

Of course, the class proved that completely wrong. It took an assignment — an imposed deadline — to drive to me to it, but even facing eleven books on a pretty rigorous schedule I never once had trouble finding the time to finish reading a novel that semester.  And that was on top of a schedule already crammed with the addition of my Master’s studies.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned (even if it is the most depressingly prosaic) was simply that I can make time to read on a regular basis. My other projects and responsibilities are no excuse to leave this aspect out of the pursuit of my art.

Without that kind of constant, wide exposure, everything else I do as a writer suffers. Nothing revealed that to me quite as clearly as two books I really disliked. Come back tomorrow, and I’ll tell you all about them.

One Response to “On Other People’s Books: Wide Exposure”

  1. Anne Wayman says:

    Hi Aaron… found you through Creative Copy Challenge… I need to come back… I’m glad you wrote about reading… it’s a must and I’ll bet you find your writing easier and better, gradually of course, as a result.