From our earliest moments, most writers are avid readers. We devour books — for story, for craft, for new worlds and new ideas.
I don’t know if we become students of the written word because we love to read or if we read because we were born to love the written word. All that chicken-and-egg Zen is well beyond me.
Every writer I know just flat-out loves books. You might even describe us as “obsessed with the printed word.”
And then we write for a while...and our thoughts about books change.
Suddenly, great story is not enough to sustain our Inner Reader through bad craft. Reading can become a to-do list item. Worse, we don't feel we have time to read because now we have kids and day jobs and deadlines.
This post is about helping you remember the magic of a great story. To remember that avid Inner Reader who could get through anything life threw at them as long as they spent time each day inside the magic of a story.
Here are ten things I know about your Inner Reader that you might have forgotten.
1. You get uncomfortable when you are "bookless."
If you are stuck somewhere without a book, you will begin reading any words available — shampoo bottles, food labels, billboard signs. Whatever. Books and magazines are preferred, but in a pinch, any words will smooth your soul. (I keep a bag of books in my car trunk for Emergency Booklessness.)
2. You read by flashlight in bed at night when you were a child.
When your person-in-charge confiscated it, you waited 5 minutes before pulling the back-up light from its crafty hidey-hole. If they were on to you and confiscated the back-up, you tilted the pages to try to read by the light from the hall or the glow of the streetlamp outside.
3. When a book touches you, it is a safe bet that you will not only remember the details of that story, characters, etc. You will also remember where you were the first time you read that book and what you were doing that day.
4. Some of your best childhood friends lived inside of books.
I hung out in my head with Jo March from Little Women for hours. I found mischief with Anne of Green Gables. I crept through the wardrobe door to Narnia. I'll bet if you pondered your early BFF list, at least half of them would be book characters or authors.
5. You have different books for different moods.
These are your go-to books when you’re in the grip of overwhelming emotion. You keep reading through that stash of books until the feeling gets a little more manageable.
6. Piles of free books by your most cherished authors give you that same zing of attraction that you felt the first time you saw your true love.
7. You have a physical reaction when you meet your favorite author(s).
When you go to a conference or a book events attended by your favorite author(s), they are like celebrities to you and you are delighted when they consent to a selfie with you. Your tongue gets tied in knots. Frogs jump in your belly. Confession: I blush, nearly every time, which is a surprise to everyone who knows me.
8. You have rituals associated with your books.
Whether it’s the way you clean them, sort them, store them or lend them, there is something particular you do with your books. And it makes you feel happy and peaceful when you look at your books after you’ve done it.
(For me, it’s the way I order them and which shelf or room they’re in. My husband knows: don’t be moving my books without telling me, or I will turn into Devil Wife.)
9. You are somewhat touchy about who you loan your books to.
I know that when someone borrows a treasured book from you and doesn’t return it — or worse, passes it on to someone else without asking you first — your friendship with them changes. You’re probably still their friend, but you’ll either “forget” to loan them books in the future or you buy a copy from the used bookstore as a back-up and loan them that. There is an A-List of book-borrowers in your life, and you love to have coffee with these people.
10. When a book touches your spirit and transports you to a place you’ve never been, it’s not uncommon for you to read the last page, turn the book over, and start at Page 1 to figure out how the author did that.
Stephen King recommends that we never stop reading, both in and out of our genre. Remember the love of words that inspired you to become a writer. That love will help you yank your stories from your heart onto the page.
Here's hoping your "reading mojo" remains strong!
Do you read differently now that you are a writer? What are your book rituals? Which of the ten “habits” describes you? What is the last book you read that put you in touch with your avid Inner Reader? Please share with us in the comments!
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About Jenny Hansen
By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for small businesses. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 18 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.
When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA or here at Writers In The Storm.
Copyright © 2023 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved
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Wow!! If I ever had doubts about being a writer at heart, this post sweeps them away.
Connecting with every point - especially #2. Didn't realize 'till later that my covers glowed...
Finishing revisions on my first bona fide novel. Needing a little encouragement.
This was just what the doctor ordered. 🙂
A thousand thanks ?
Hahahaha, G. Claire! Never doubt it. You are a writer or you wouldn't be here laughing about this list. 🙂
Good luck on your revisions!
OMG haha, I can so relate. Yes, those very very rare times I have no book, the shampoo bottle must do! And of course I dust my books and have them sorted just so. I'm still a bit touchy to this day about loaning out books.
As for reading differently, not really. I can go back to my old-skool romances that I read as a teenager and still enjoy when even the butler had a POV. They're still magical to me.
Great book-borrowing are rare souls that must be appreciated. It's astonishing how different they are from other friends. I once found an entire series I had loaned a friend in a bag in her garage where she was planning TO GARAGE SALE THEM. I just stared at her and thought, "You are not who I thought you were."
Cereal boxes, Maggie - I ate up the inside, and the outside!
Haha! Me too!!
That's a great description of me. I always carry a book or kindle to appointments, sports' practices, and I have different books for different moods. Actually, I have two functiioning kindles and read ARCs on those if I don't have print.
In my neighborhood, at a certain age, I didn't fit in with the other kids...books were my salvation, my refuge, and my friends. My dad built me shelves which ran the entire length of my bed. I didn't always have a lot of stuff, but I had books. Which was surprising, because my parents aren't bookish people. Books were my treasures.
For all of us who had a painful growing up, books were an absolute lifeline. I'm glad you had them to revel in. *fist bump* Me too!!
I'm reading and re-reading Charles Dickens novels for the sheer delight of his use of language. I grew up on an Iowa farm & would sit in the barn & read poetry to my mother while she milked the cow. Now, no matter how tired I am at night, I have to read at least a few pages before I sleep. I like to think words live on in my mind, and I can pull them out when I'm doing my own writing. Happy reading!
I love that image, Nan! You reading to your mama in the barn. The quiet beauty of it blows me away.
Writers like Twain and Dickens and Hemingway are really hard to beat for sheer entertainment. Others have come close but Dickens is pretty tough to surpass.
So very cool, Nan. I'll bet the cow appreciated it, too.
I like to think of cows appreciating poetry. It's like a Far Side cartoon.
I have written my first novel and am in the middle of editing it only to discover I am not the best grammar-snob. I have gone back to a few favorites and reread a turn of phrase or a particular way the author wrote out a scene for best impact then I do more editing on my book. Its probably NEVER going to be published but I did enjoy writing the space battle scenes and glorious conflicts of sword fights and intricate dances of conversation.
I live in an RV, not much room for books. I have one cubbie that I have my 20 favs. And now I've gone to KINDLE or AUDIBLE. I've re-bought all my favs in digital or audible and read probably like 6 books over and over. I very much like to read different books for different moods. I sometimes need that over-the-top romantic moment "You had me at hello" or "What do you do when you get everything you've ever wished for?" The last books I've read that really impacted me was some readers digest story about a military PTSD survivor.
Congratulations on your first novel, Jeanne! You never do know what will happen with these books we write. But you had fun writing it, which is what really matters. And you'll have fun with the next and the next.
Funny story about space for books. When I my husband met me, me and my more-than-a-thousand books lived alone. When we moved, he stared at my bookshelves and politely asked if I needed ALL of them. I agreed to get rid of 20%. My god, that hurt.
And then I got a Kindle and I can have as many books as I want. It is glorious! No one knows what I read, or how many there are. WOO!
Oh, Jeanne. Did I hear space battles and sword fights. I'm all in. Get that book published!
This really hit home. I remember when all of my friends were spending their allowance on candy and comics, I was mowing lawns and working for neighbors so I could buy the next issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine or an Alfred Hitchcock anthology from the local used book store.
I love that story, Bob! So, you were a Hitchcock guy from and early age, huh? It's always been books for me too. Always.
Yeah, I started reading Poe in the fourth grade and moved on to the Sherlock Holmes books after that. By middle school I was reading Earl Stanley Gardner, Hitchcock anthologies, and a lot of the old pulp writers. I'm pretty sure that's where some of my voice as a writer came from.
Ellery Queen. Yes! Those were the best.
I finally ended up buying a subscription in high school.
I was a little later with the subscription. Money was tight and I was tight with what I had! But I saved those magazines for decades!
In some ways, being a writer has ruined being a reader. It's difficult for me to not wear my editor's hat when reading now. And I'm constantly looking for great writing that employs all the techniques I'm learning. Sadly, much of what's on the market misses the mark. There may be some awesome storytelling going on, but it's not be told in the ways that we get preached to about. But, and that's a big BUT, I'm learning to shut that all down and just go on the protagonist's journey...without judgement or red pen.
Chris, this entire post came from someone saying exactly that to me: "I just don't enjoy reading as much as I used to. Now I see the flaws and it takes me out of the story."
I will say, I download a lot more samples on my Kindle than books. The samples usually convince me to save my money.
I still love reading my favorite authors—and finding new ones. But because of deadlines and revisions, I don't get to read as much as I'd like to.
Love, love, love this, Jenny. You helped me reconnect with that little girl who loved to get sent to her room, because that's where the books were! I too, don't get to read as often, but when I get a great one...all that excitement and love rushes back, and I binge read until I've devoured it.
LOL. I can just imagine you, skipping down the hall. 🙂 A great book is a majestic thing of beauty, isn't it?
Loved being reminded of all those flashlight nights. And I remember the moment when all those squiggles on the page sort of swam together and formed WORDS. It started me on all those reading adventures by myself, but I was a teensy bit sad to know that my beloved mysterious squiggles would never be there again.
Jeanne, you remember that moment of learning to read? What a treasure that is. The books came together for me with Go Spot Go. And I remember the words, "See Jane run." on the page. I don't know what book they were in, but I remember being excited that I could READ.
At least five of the descriptions sound familiar to me--especially flashlight reading, and books as best friends. If I lend a book to someone, I do it knowing that I am taking a chance of never seeing the book again, or getting it back in worse condition than when I loaned it. But I do loan some out, anyway.
Right now I am reading Book Seven of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle, for the first time, and enjoying it. I'm lost in Narnia, and that's OK.
LOL. You are a brave soul to continue loaning out books, ScribeLady. I am slowly turning in books on my shelf to the library with books that I check out. If it's "an accident," they'll take those great books and bind them to give them new life.
I just bought the Chronicles of Narnia AND Little Women for my girlie. She's ready for them, but we're still finishing Harry Potter. Book 7, and it's getting crazy now. 🙂
Great post, Jen! I read everything, too, and all the time. Must get new glasses/contact lenses. Getting old. 🙂
You're not getting old! But it's a bummer when the eyesight dims, isn't it?
I love this post so much, I want to hug it! This one especially struck me: "4. Some of your best childhood friends lived inside of books." Yep, Nancy (Drew) and Laura (Ingalls) were two of my favorite friends growing up. Thanks for reminding us of our love of reading, Jenny!