Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
After Page One: Why I Read

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A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire

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Read BEFORE You Write

 

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” - Stephen King

I was very young and terrifically impressionable when I first read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I don’t remember all the wisdom that was imparted through that well-worn library copy, but I do remember what was most relevant to me at the time. Just beginning to nurture my creative self and to dip my toes in what can be a ruthless world of rejection called publishing, I recall that Stephen King received a lot of rejections in his early days. I remember his articulate words of encouragement as they stroked my worries. His message: you will be rejected.

I was somewhat older and defiantly unimpressionable when I first read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. I thumbed its pages in fits and starts, reading a chapter or a sentence, maybe a paragraph or two at startlingly infrequent intervals. This was during my desert period when life pulled me away from my writing toward other, time consuming pursuits like a career that made money in the short-term, like marriage and the practicalities of bourgeoning adulthood. I remember that Goldberg wanted me to write often and with purpose. I wasn’t ready to heed her advice, though I stored it in my mind. Writing is a practice and it takes practice. Devote yourself to it.

I had recently blossomed into a new life role, motherhood, when I first picked up Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. The birth of my son put a halt to my professional pursuits and my intelligence melted over mindless diaper changes and days spent coo’ing, not verbalizing complex ideas. I turned (back) to writing as a way to manage – manage my own destiny, my own emotions, manage words on a page, manage something I could control. I remember reading Lamott’s hilarious advice to “write a shitty first draft.” It reminded me that I didn’t have to be perfect, as a writer or as a mother. What was important was the “getting out” of ideas, emotions, love.

Writing and reading have always come packaged together as complementary activities in my life. I am a writer because I read, a reader because I write. My favorite authors teach me story structure and character development. My favorite poets school me on metaphors and imagery. The memoirists I admire show me how to spin tales from my life into scenes others will want to imagine. Inspiration can come from anywhere – an article I read in The Huffington Post inspires a blog entry about workplace equality. A featured essay on The New York Times' Motherlode blog changes my approach to a short story; a poem published on Literary Mama ignites the imagery that leads me to write a new poem. I’m encouraged to adjust my daily schedule when I read how other writers have managed to incorporate writing into their lives.

I read anything and everything, anytime I can, and try to get the most out of every genre. The experts say that is the key to a successful writing career. I believe it.

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Join our After Page One series.  We’re looking for 300 to 500-word guest posts that motivate, inspire, and encourage other mama-writers, and we’d love to feature YOUR thoughts about getting started, getting back to a writing project, integrating writing with motherhood, reading, or having a positive attitude.   The list is endless, but here are some questions that might help you get started. We’ll publish a short bio so readers can learn more about you and your projects.


Karen Bannister is a writer and editor. She lives in British Columbia, Canada with her husband and three children. Formerly a student of The Momoir Project, she is a regular contributor to The Momoir Project Blog. Her personal blog site is readathomemom.com.


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