Being Married

Getting married is a peak experience. Being married is climbing a mountain.

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Grand Teton, Wyoming

I don’t mean that in a negative way. Standing in thin air gets boring. But the shift to day-to-day, one foot in front of the other is a major adjustment. In such times, it is essential to seek the wisdom of those who have gone before. Especially if your family history includes a succession of marriages with the sinking/explosive properties of depth charges.

We began married life with Joan Didion’s gimlet-eyed appraisal of ’60s Vegas,  “Marrying Absurd” from her astonishing essay collection Slouching Towards Bethlahem.slouching

“Dressing rooms, Flowers, Rings, Announcements, Witnessess Available, and Ample Parking,” Didion writes. “All of these services, like most others in Las Vegas (sauna baths, payroll-check cashing, chinchilla coats for sale or rent) are offered twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, presumably on the premise that marriage, like craps, is a game to be played when the table seems hot.”

My husband and I wed within 48 hours of getting the marriage licence. Our engagement (unannounced) lasted about two weeks. Why the rush? Because it passed the last day test, e.g. if tomorrow were my last day on earth, I wanted to spend it as his wife.

Here we are, then, married.

Life continues.

Specifically, he is still on the road with work. I’m staying with family, living out of a suitcase for the final weeks of his contract. Some time in the next month we hope to have a home in Spain. If everything works out. We count on things working out.

Optimism is a prerequisite for any marriage. Ours is probably no more demanding than any other, just different.

It is easy to feel alone in this new thing so I am grateful to my dear friend, the gifted writer Melissa Madenski. When she says, “you should read” I listen. Over coffee at Tabor Space — a coffee shop sanctuary tucked into a church in Southeast Portland — she recommended This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett.

happy marriage

A couple years ago I read and loathed both The Patron Saint of Liars and Truth & Beauty but Melissa doesn’t give bad advice so I trotted off to get …Happy Marriage.

Among other things, it taught me to be willing to give writers another chance. Though I have no desire to read any more of her fiction, Patchett’s essay on marriage sends reverberations down the long bones of my legs. She writes of her relationship with her second husband which, for over a decade, was defined by her refusal to marry. After a disastrous first marriage she decided there was no need to ever do that again. A sensible stance, if you ask me.

Then her partner is diagnosed with a serious heart condition. “All these years I had thought to be afraid of only one potential ending: by not marrying Karl, we could never get divorced,” she writes. “By not marrying him, he would never be lost to me. Now I could see the failure of my imagination. I had accounted only for the loss I knew enough to fear.”

I know that feeling, the hammer-blow realisation that what I’m scared of isn’t what’s at stake. Fear is provocative, especially in relationships. Not fear of what is, but fear of what we remember, and what we imagine might be.

Adrienne Rich describes it as “pain… flashing its bleak torch in my eyes/blotting out her particular being/the details of her love. (From “Splittings” in Dream of a Common Language). We all have baggage, remembered wounds that flare up under the heat of common languageemotional intensity. The memory of pain become a self-perpetuating cycle of fear, if you let it. Fear is a virus that needs us to replicate. It will multiply and gorge itself on our happiness unless we keep our eyes locked on the details of our love.

Patchett recognises the consequences of letting the virus breed. “The fact that we came so close to missing out, missing out because of my own fear of failing, makes me think I avoided a mortal accident by the thickness of a coat of paint. We are, on this earth, so incredibly small, in the history of time, in the crowd of the world, we are practically invisible, not even a dot, and yet we have each other to hold on to.”

Holding on to each other is the privilege and work of being married. Writing that, it occurs to me to wonder how this will read to me when I’ve been married a year? Five? Ten? What will time tell? Should I save this post as a draft for a few years to make sure things work out?

I could. But that would be to blink in the face of pain’s bleak torch. And I can’t see the path ahead if my eyes are shut.

 

Notebook Heroes: Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau was genius at keeping a notebook. Some of his extensive journal became Walden, a timeless, beautiful assertion of Transcendent philosophy and call to individuality and authenticity.walden

 

The Journal is a doorstop volume gleaned from Thoreau’s notebooks. It is a treasure drove of description, anecdote and inspiration from a writer who was never short of — nor shy of expressing — ideas. The following excerpts are from a journaling workshop I run from time to time. Savour them then pick up a pen start your own notebook.

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Henry David Thoreau, The Journal

Nov. 9. In our walks C. takes out his note-book sometimes and tries to write as I do, but all in vain. He soon puts it up again, or contents himself with scrawling some sketch of the landscape. Observing me still scribbling, he will say that he confines himself to the ideal, purely ideal remarks; he leaves the facts to me. Sometimes, too, he will say a little petulantly, “I am universal; I have nothing to do with the particular and definite.” He is the moodiest person, perhaps, that I ever saw. As naturally whimsical as a cow is brindled, both in his tenderness and his roughness he belies himself. He can be incredibly selfish and unexpectedly generous. He is conceited, and yet there is in him far more than usual to ground conceit upon.

I, too, would fain set down something beside facts. Facts should only be as the frame to my pictures; they should be material to the mythology which I am writing; not facts to assist men to make money, farmers to farm profitably, in any common sense; facts to tell who I am, and where I have been or what I have thought: as now the bell rings for evening meeting, and its volumes of sound, like smoke with rises from where a cannon is fired, make the tent in which I dwell. My facts shall be falsehoods to the common sense. I would so state facts that they shall be significant, shall be myths or mythologic. Facts which the mind perceived, thoughts which the body thought.

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Nov. 12. Write often, write upon a thousand themes, rather than long at a time, not trying to turn too many feeble somersets in the air, — and so come down upon your head at last. Antaeus-like, be not long absent from the ground. Those sentences are good and well discharged which are like so many little resiliencies from the spring floor of our life, — a distinct fruit and kernel itself, springing from terra firma. Let there be as many distinct plants as the soil and the light can sustain. Take as many bounds in a day as possible. Sentences uttered with your back to the wall. Those are the admirable bounds when the performer has lately touched the spring-board.

C. is one who will not stoop to rise (to change the subject). He wants something for which he will not pay the going price. He will only learn slowly by failure, — not a noble, but disgraceful, failure. This is not a noble method of learning, to be educated by inevitable suffering, like De Quincey, for instance. Better dive like a muskrat into the mud, and pile up a few weeds to sit on during the floods, a foundation of your own laying, a house of your own building, however cold and cheerless.

Methinks the hawk that soars so loftily and circles so steadily and apparently without effort has earned this power by faithfully creeping on the ground as a reptile in a former state of existence. You must creep before you can run; you must run before you can fly.

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Jan. 27. Trench says a wild man is a willed man. Well, then, a man of will who does what he wills or wishes, a man of hope and of the future tense, for not only the obstinate is willed, but far more the constant and persevering. The obstinate man, properly speaking, is one who will not. The perseverance of the saints is positive willed-ness, not mere passive willingness. The fates are wild, for they will; and the Almight is wild above all, as fate is.

What are our fields but felds or felled woods. They bear a more recent name than the woods, suggesting that previously the earth was covered with woods. Always in the new country a field is a clearing.

The Journal and Walden on Amazon

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Digital Detox

Somewhere along the way, my phone got out of hand.
Rather, it was never out of my hand.

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So, so addictive

Alarm chimes. Hand goes to phone. Depending on the latest incoming message a cobalt or green-means-go light flashes from the top right corner of my phone, a tiny beacon. Before I’m even awake my fingers are stubbing out the unlock code, skimming across the screen; my half-shut eyes are skimming Guardian headlines or reading messages.

At some point I roll out of bed and head downstairs to start coffee, phone firmly in hand. While the kettle boils I’m scanning email or Tweeting. The cat, my partner, and my mental health are all forgotten in an urgent need to catch up on Instagram.

Friday night, Chris and I were sitting side by side. I was absorbed in my phone. He said something. I wasn’t listening. As I struggled to tune in to reality, it occurred to me what a waste it to substitute a smartphone for human interaction. What was I going to miss? Another blast of bad news, a Gap e-flyer, a handful of photos by people I’ve never met and probably never will. In other words, nothing. Nothing of value, nothing of note, nothing that substitutes for time spent with someone I love.

So I turned my phone off and said: “I’m having a break.”

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Stoic philosophy

Saturday morning, I woke up before Chris. With my phone switched off, I reached for my Kindle and read a couple of chapters before coffee. Without the distraction of my phone, I had time to meditate for a few minutes. I read a chapter of Epictetus and mused on it.

We went for a long walk, looping through Overton Park and back to the house through the Evergreen Historic District. In the afternoon we did errands and talked. Came home, had a glass of rose and discussed plans for the coming months.

There were a few times I missed my phone: in the car, sans Spotify; needing to look up an address; wanting to look in an online shop. Those moments brought home to me how much I rely on my phone for distraction. Whenever there is a lull, I reach for it. Sometimes the pretext is information or function, but none of it is urgent. The address was for a letter that wouldn’t post until Monday anyway, the online shopping was (needless to say) not that important. And guess what, FM radio still exists.

We made Thai green curry for dinner. I simmered sweet potato, onion, red pepper, courgette and cherry tomatoes in a rich coconut milk sauce. Chris blacked Indian aubergines beneath the grill, peeling the charred skin at the last minute and adding the smoky flesh to the vegetables along with fistfuls of spinach and a handful of fresh basil leaves. We cooked a big pot of basmati rice, drank more rose. With our phones out of sight and mind, we concentrated on the food and conversation.

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Buddhist wisdom

Chris wanted to read after dinner. I’d finished my book so started the only other “new” book on my Kindle, Radical Compassion — a collection of essays by contemporary Buddhists. Without the lure of my phone, I concentrated more; thought more about what I was reading.

There was even time, in the midst of everything else, to write for a while.

Before going to bed, I looked at my phone. Should I turn it on to set the alarm for morning? It was strange to see it lying on the night stand, reduced to its real dimensions, just a slab of black plastic. The flicker of temptation passed. My phone is a significant part of my routine, a valuable accessory, but it’s not essential.

Communication is essential. Closeness. Caring. Connection. All these things the phone can facilitate. It can also be an attention black hole. It was good to take a day off and remind myself what’s important and where things stand.

If you don’t hear from me on a Saturday don’t worry, it’s digital detox day.

 

 

 

Resist List

A shitstorm’s a’coming, America, and it is tempting to sit like a rabbit in the headlights of 24/7 all-you-can-eat-non-stop-over-the-top media madness. It is easy to feel helpless as a bunny in front of a bazooka. Which is what They want. They want good people to be frightened, disempowered, anxious, depressed, fatalistic. They get us that way by generating global drama to distract us from the simple business of living in our own skin.

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Do your damnedest

Who has time to help a neighbour, volunteer, or read a book when THE END IS NIGH?

Not us, if They can help it.

Let’s call out that lie. Let’s insist on the value and validity of our lives. Let’s resist by doing small things to help, encourage, support, and contribute to our community.

Resistance comes in all shapes, sizes and creeds. Environmental activism, visiting the elderly, leading a youth group, donating to an animal shelter. It’s all good. It all matters. Every small act of care for a sentient being is a pebble in Goliath’s eye.

Here’s my resist list. What’s yours?

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Stand for something

Tip cash

Cash tips mostly go to servers. Card tips mostly disappear into an accounting black hole. Also, if you’re in the USA, do a quick Google search and check state law on tipping. In Oregon, employers have to pay the full minimum wage, tips are extra. In Tennessee, employers pay as little as $2.13/hour as tips count towards the paltry $7.25/hour minimum wage. If your home state is in a similar situation contact your Representatives & Congress people, and agitate against these oppressive laws that protect bosses.

Buy less/buy second hand

Because A) They want you to be doped on ads, neck-deep in debt and dissatisfied; and
B) Stuff ties you down. Stay free, stay mobile.

Avoid cheap new goods; they are the product of exploitation. As the great Victorian critic John Ruskin pointed out, if something is sold for less the true cost of production, it is stolen. They are also an environmental nightmare. Resell, re-buy, reuse. Craigslist, eBay, Amazon, garage sales, and thrift stores are a good place to start.

Get a library card

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Read for your rights

Libraries are the perfect place to plot a revolution. Read the books They don’t want you to read. Study. Learn. Connect to worlds of wisdom and possibility.

Exercise

The only proven treatment for depression that has no negative side effects? Exercise.
It also prevents heart disease, diabetes, stroke, dementia, etc etc. They are happy to have a weak, sick, docile population. Stay strong and resist.

Speak

Even if you think it doesn’t affect you. Never forget the words of Martin Niemoller,
a German Protestant minister who spent seven years in Nazi concentration camps:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Listen

To the people you love: because it’s easy to take then for granted,  take out our stress on them, or assume we know them. Ask questions, even if you think you know the answer.

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Be alert

To people you disagree with: antagonism and mutual mistrust is what got us here, it won’t get us out. Let’s none of us build walls.

To people no one else hears: kids, homeless, older, female, coloured… there are a lot of things that get you ignored. Make a conscious effort to give them your ear.

 

Share your Resist List in the comments or Tweet @CilaWarncke your #resistlist

 

 

Reread: Best Books of 2016

If, like me, you have a voice in your head that tells you off for paying attention to your own life, for saving boarding passes and scribbled-upon napkins, for stopping to write love letters in the sand, ignore it.

img_20161113_151120Happiness and creativity depend on valuing our lives. They depend on listening, watching, recording, remembering. It is easy to envy other people’s lives — so exciting! Such superior children/holidays/houses/jobs/wardrobes/sex lives! Such a torrent of fabulous Instagram photos and witty Facebook status updates. We get so caught up peering through the virtual window of our neighbours’ lives we forget to look at our own. We don’t see the pathos, adventure, and pleasure of our own existence because we’re not looking.

Two years ago I started a keeping a list of all the books I read. It seemed like a self-indulgent tic indicative of an unhealthy level of ego. Or, worse, a pointless exercise (who cares?) My delight in list-making narrowly trumped these niggles. Now a blue virtual post-it on my home screen contains a list of all the books I read in 2016.

The list reminds me not only what I’ve read, but how I read. It is a snapshot of the ebb and flow of time and energy. January 2016 was a book-heavy month, gobbling up a glut of Christmas goodies and biding a lot of time until my second date with the soon-to-be boyfriend. February was a respectable showing. March, the month I spent between London, Dominican Republic and Brussels, I read almost nothing. The next two months were spent in a miserable, unsuccessful attempt to assimilate into a receptionist job at an overrated luxury agrotourismo in Ibiza — it was bad enough I only read a book and a half. Finishing Anna Karenina took me through June. The rest of the year I read in fits and starts. What jumped out, reviewing the list, was how many books I reread. And, with the exception of High Tide in Tucson and Jane Eyre, not just for the second time.

Looking over my top ten rereads reminds me what I value and crave. The books on this list all offer, directly or through illustration, wisdom and encouragement to those trying hard to live by their own lights. From the esoteric musings of the Glass siblings to the tough-love advice of Cheryl Strayed, each book is, in its own way, a tonic. They were rocks in the fast-moving stream of a year where everything changed, stepping stones to a new life.

Franny & Zooey, JD Salinger

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The summer I was 15 I lived with my older sister and worked at Wendy’s. Every day on my break I hunkered down in store cupboard and read Franny & Zooey. To this day I’m not sure where I got the book, or why it grabbed me. What I do know is I’ve read it somewhere between 30-50 times, can quote entire sections of it verbatim, and reread it at least twice a year. In part it’s the reflection of myself I see in Zooey who says “I’m sick to death of waking up furious every morning and going to bed furious at night”, an echo of my relationship with my siblings in the narrator’s aside that the Glass siblings share a “semantic geometry where the shortest distance between two points is a fullish circle”, or descriptions like, “the Jewish-Irish Mohican scout who died in your arms at the roulette table in Monte Carlo.” In part, because the wildly verbose, witty, strangely timeless sentences still reveal new flashes of character. The narrator says it is a “compound or multiple love story, pure and complicated” which is a fine description of the writing, too.

Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott

Ostensibly a book about writing, Bird by Bird is a wise, funny, heart-rending guide to living life when you don’t fit in a box. The combination of Lamott’s acerbic yet self-deprecating turns of phrase coupled with her palpable compassion is almost unbearable. I cry every time I read it, even though I’ve read it so many times I well up in anticipation. It makes me want to walk around hugging everyone and at the same time makes me want to be a blazing good writer. Every chapter is a gem, but “Jealousy” and “KFKD” are maybe the best things you’ll ever read on, respectively, the eponymous emotion and self-doubt. And her advice about avoiding libel charges is hilarious, priceless, and involves the memorable comparison of a penis to a baby bird in its nest.

Letters to a Young Poet, Rilkeletters

This I plucked off a library shelf in Tigard, OR on the strength of the fact that Lady Gaga has a Rilke quote tattooed on her upper arm — it reads in part, “confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write”. The line, it transpires, is from Letters To A Young Poet which is so rich in exquisitely worded wisdom it flays me. Rilke’s advice on sex, solitude, and seeking ones calling is so incisive it takes my breath away. And, as a poet, he makes every word count, crafting artful sentences that blow my mind on both a philosophical and aesthetic basis. I love it so much, I read it aloud and sent the recording as a gift to a friend.

 

A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf

Woolf’s trenchent analysis of what women writers need is as relevant today as when she delivered the lectures from which it was drawn in 1928. We may have “come a long way, baby” but women are still underpaid, overworked, and too often cut off from the privileges that enrich men’s prospects. Sexism may not be as crude as the beadle who ordered her out of the Oxford library, but it thrives in a thousand insidious ways that women internalise or ignore at their own risk. I also love Woolf’s dazzling prose, which gave us, “one can not think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed

This collection of Strayed’s advice columns written for The Rumpus’s Dear Sugar column breaks my heart wide open. I’m sobbing by the time I get through the second or third letter, whichever it is that is from the women who suffered a late-term miscarriage. It is hard to put my finger exactly on what it is about Tiny Beautiful Things that makes me gasp. Mostly, it’s Strayed’s unflinching willingness to examine the hardest things in her own life. She doesn’t rush through awfulness, or glide past suffering, she stays, unafraid to study it and claim who and what she is in the wake of it. This solipsism is unexpectedly comforting. By inhabiting and sharing her experience she makes it okay to inhabit and unpick my experience. Line by line, she demonstrates the potential for growth and change in every life. If one is willing to embrace an almost Stoic determination to live well by doing what’s right.

Endurance, Melissa Madenski

enduranceIn 2015 I committed to memorising a poem per month, and did. Not all of them have remained word-perfect in my head, but it was an incredible experience with language. When you learn something by heart, you discover things. Cadence, repetition, punctuation, imagery all become vivid in an unpredictable way. I didn’t set out to memorise poetry in 2016 but I read a lot of it — including fantastic collections by Jack Gilbert and CP Cavafy. My favourite reread, though, was this slender chapbook by an Oregon writer. She lost her husband to an unexpected heart attack when she was in her 30s with two young children and the grief of that loss reverberates through Endurance. These are poems about learning to live with the worst case, not with resignation but with courage and, ultimately, joy. It’s another one I can’t make it through without tears, but they’re cathartic.

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

Of all the my rereads, this was the most fun because it was so different from my memory of it. I must have been 12 or 13 when I read Jane Eyre and I was bored witless. Years later, I read Wuthering Heights and hated it, confirming my prejudice against their weird, masochistic and wildly overrated Brontë sisters. Then on a whim I read Anne Brontë’s Tenant of Wildfell Hall and liked it. And somewhere I heard that Jane Eyre was feminist. So I gave it another shot and fell in love. Bold feminism plus a terrific yarn? Brilliant.

Free Kindle edition

Long Quiet Highway, Natalie Goldberg

I reread at least one or two of Goldberg’s books each year. Most often Writing Down the Bones or Wild Mind, but this time I went for The Long Quiet Highway which is mostly about her study of Zen Buddhism over the years. Which of course means it is about writing, being, meaning, truth, acceptance, and everything else that matters. Writing is Zen; Zen is writing. Whatever we do is meditation if we allow it to be. The subtitle is Waking Up in America which is  nearly what I named this blog because that’s what I’m trying to do: wake up in a country I left 16 years ago; figure out what it means to be me in America in 2017, and how to do something good here.

Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson

Treasure Island has been a staple of my literary diet since I was 15 or so. I was a precocious reader, but not above devouring whatever I could get my hands on, and this yarn of seafaring and daring-do always hit the spot. Years later, when I moved to Ibiza, I started to think of it as treasure island — a supposed paradise guarded by dead men’s bones and half-crazed exiles. Overly dramatic personal parallels aside, it is a fantastically fun book and an excellent template for writers looking to craft a fast-paced, unforgettable story.

Free Kindle edition

High Tide in Tucson, Barbara Kingsolver

Kingsolver is the most recent addition to my personal pantheon of southern American writers (Carson McCullers, Hunter S Thompson, Eudora Welty, Truman Capote, etc etc) and possibly the one I’d Most Like To Meet. Writing implacably reveals character and every word I’ve read of Kingsolver makes me think she is a Good Person, smart as hell, and cracking company on a night out. Her fiction boggles me and this book of essays is one of the finest, sharpest, most humane collections I’ve had the pleasure of reading. The title essay alone is worth the price of admission; Buster the stranded hermit crab may change your life.

What were your favourite rereads of 2016? Share in the comments or tweet @CilaWarncke

How to read like a writer

“It is impossible to become a writer without reading,” says Paul Hendrickson, writing professor boatat the University of Pennsylvania and award-winning author of numerous books including Hemingway’s Boat.

There is a relationship between quality of reading and quality of writing. And a distinction between reading for pleasure and reading like a writer. The difference involves attitude, approach and appreciation. Michael Schmidt, poet, professor and author of Thenovel Novel: A Biography recommends reading, “with eyes wide open, full of anticipation.”

With this in mind, here are seven ways to read like a writer:

1. Compulsively

 “You can’t be a writer unless you have a hunger for print,” says Nick Lezard, Guardian literary critic and author of Bitter Experience Has Tbitteraught Me. “I was the kid who sat at the table and read the side of the cereal packet.” In Nick’s case, the lust for literature paved the way for a career as a book reviewer. But regardless of the genre or field to which you aspire, all writers are readers first.  And “it doesn’t matter whether the medium is the side of the cereal packet or a screen,” Nick says.

2. Slowly

Cereal-packet readers tend to wolf words like they do breakfast. This is a trait writers should train themselves out of – at least sometimes. Paul defines reading like a writer as slow reading: dawdling on the page, delving, soaking in the style and rhythm. Don’t read everything this way, though. “I don’t read the newspaper ‘like a writer’,” he notes. “I don’t have time. Nobody does.”

3. Broadlyfarewell-arms

Time is of the essence for the reading writer, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore everything apart from the classics. There are, to borrow Orwell’s term, good bad books. Nick mentions Ian Fleming as an example of compelling though less-than-literary fiction. Paul gives a nod to Raymond Chandler, saying writers can learn from his “hardboiled, imagistic lines.”

4. Selectively

That said, don’t make the mistake of reading widely but not too well. “Reading crap is no good for the eye or ear,” says Michael. “Read only the best, and read it attentively. See how it relates to the world it depicts, or grows out of.”

Nick, who has read his share of bad books as a reviewer, concurs: “If you just read books like 50 Shades of Grey or Dan Brown, you’re going to wind up spewing out a string of miserable clichés.”

 5. Attentively

You get the most out of good writing by reading it with real attention. Michael advises writers to pay heed to metaphor, characters’ voices, how the author develops those voices and how they change. He recommends Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children as a rewarding subject of attentive reading: “There is a strong sense of development, nothing static there. I can think of no better pattern book for a would-be writer.”    stein

6. Fearlessly

Reading like a writer means going out of your comfort zone. When Nick was in his teens he tackled James Joyce’s Ulysses. “It was a struggle,” he recalls. “It took me a year or two. But that’s how you [learn] – you find stuff that’s above your level.”ulysses

7. Imaginatively

Reading above your level is valuable, in part, because it challenges your imagination. Paul talks about savoring the terse beauty of poetry and imagining “everything that’s between the spaces of the words, the spaces of the lines.” By observing the work of your own imagination you gain insight into how writers evoke images and emotions.

You don’t have to read every book (or cereal box) like a writer. But the more you immerse yourself in words and cultivate these seven skills, the better your writing will be. “If you are writing a potboiler, imagine how wonderful it will be if the work you produce is actually a proper novel,” says Michael. “Read the best, and read the best in your elected genre.”

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Writers’ Recommended Reading:

Ulysses – James Joyce
To The Lighthouse –Virginia Woolf
A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway 
Three Lives – Gertrude Stein
New York Review of Books