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.