What I’ve learned in my relatively short life as a writer is this simple truth; A writer is first and foremost a reader.
And furthermore, an author is merely a writer who refused to give up. You can study craft books and take writing workshops until you’re cross-eyed and arthritic, but nothing can hone your skills like the relentless reading of fine fiction. The common denominator between us from the novice to the most accomplished of word-weavers is the hopeless love of story.
I realize not all readers become writers. You need a certain kind of delusional/whimsical/masochistic personality to bleed your heart for all to see and willingly submit your tender underbelly to razor sharp criticisms, but the love of story is just that powerful. Compulsive. And so beautifully freeing. You don’t necessarily write because you can. You write because you can’t not.
I can’t imagine who I’d be if I hadn’t re-invented myself as a writer some six years ago. I was not born into this. It was never my plan to follow this dream. I didn’t even like reading—(blasphemy, right?)—until college. But once I caught the bug it all changed for me. Even the way I saw the world, right down to the most minute detail, was a new exploration. It was, and continues to be, incredibly enlightening.
But it all started with a book. Just one beautiful work of fiction that took me away. This book, my “reader-maker” was a compelling and dramatic love story set in ancient Rome about a Jewish slave girl and a Roman aristocrat. The kind of heart-in-your-throat, edge-of-your-seat, sleep-stealing read that tears you to shreds and puts you back together again, the same, and yet… not. The novel by Francine Rivers called A Voice in the Wind is still a favorite. It moved me in the way only the best fiction does. And maybe someday I’ll write something great enough to become someone else’s reader-maker. But for now, I’m just in love.
So what about you? Do you remember your reader-maker?