The Writer’s Aphrodisiac: Reading, Loving, and Climax

Return to Nevèrÿon by Samuel R. Delany.jpg

First off I want to let everyone know that I’ve revamped this here website and it’s looking fantastic. Take a look! I’ll admit it’s been a while since the last post. Part of the neglect has been in no small part due to the fun I was having working on the latest Golem story and a few other major developments that I’ll detail.

You may or may not know that I’ve been steadily working on a new book. To steal a phrase from George Saunders, it’s really been “putting on the pages.” After a trip to South Dakota and a subsequent recovery from said trip (thank you, Badlands) this last weekend proved to be a perfect opportunity to reclaim some of my momentum and love for this ever-burgeoning beast. This beast is my fourth novel manuscript which desperately lacks a codename. Any takers?

Mmmm! Nothing like Friday night in.

Mmmm! Nothing like Friday night in.

“Wait? Fourth? I haven’t even seen one novel!” you say. That’s right. My novel manuscripts have not been published yet and I can assure that is mostly a mercy for both you and me. Simply put, it’s not ready, but when it is you will know because I will be ascending the mountain tops/importing them to my flat beloved homeland of Illinois and then shouting from atop them that this novel is officially ready for your reading pleasure.

Until then, I’m going to have to keep a tight lid on things because writing is a long process, and a rather ugly one at that. To try to share snippets or summary would be like posting pictures of myself at my most awkwardly pubescent. Writers are kind enough to (ideally) spare their readers the weird growth spurts (and splutters) in their writing (or find a way to make them essential to the story).

Actually forget that comparison, revealing too much too soon would be much worse than any amount of teenage angst manifesting on my forehead. It would be like watching me pick at a pimple in my soul until it’s gratifying release. That is to say it would be messy and unpleasant for all (most?) who have to watch.

Ok, gross. You get it. Moving on.

I originally envisioned this blog as place to submit informal musings on events, articles, and to document the process of writing. There are so many little things that go into writing a novel, many of which I’ll never really understand or even perceive, but the majority of it is deliberate effort and perseverance.

Beyond the obvious, get writing and don’t stop advice that everyone has heard over and over, I’ve discovered a critical part of my process that may help you in yours. Actually reading just helps you be a better human (there’s studies) so let’s all agree to work on this.

Two things:

1. Please read.

2. Please Read Fiction You Enjoy.

Maybe you’ve heard this before or something like it, but honestly it still amazes me how easy it is to fall out of the habit of reading. Often I think it’s because sadly for many would-be writers, reading has often been a chore, an assignment, nothing short of dull drudgery. And that’s a terrible shame.

Reading is the perfect aphrodisiac for writing. At least it can be if prepared properly. Finding a book you enjoy, that you admire for any reason, be it for character, footnotes, or sexy vampires, is the surest way to turn on your brain and dare I say enhance your diction? Prolong your –never mind.

A good book should keep you up all night like an ill-timed cup of coffee. A good book should get you in more trouble than your best-worst friends (why is there not a word for this kind of relationship?). In middle school, the Wheel of Time kept getting eleven year old me more than my fair share conduct checks. There was a grade for conduct (suburban Catholic school) of course. I quickly learned to shove my beloved tomes under my desk during Algebra, Religion, and definitely English class.

I couldn’t keep my hands off those pages. They certainly left their mark on me. And still, I find it invaluable to have books in my life, even when I’m busy trying to write a novel. No, correction: especially when I’m busy. Every time I pick up Sam Delany, if my life isn’t just changed completely and irreversibly, I’m certain to walk away with a dozen new words to investigate and try out.

About a month ago I was lucky enough to enjoy a George Saunders reading at my old stomping ground, DePaul University. I was familiar with his work, (basically mandatory in an undergrad writing program), though not completely taken by him. But after volunteering my own time to listen to him read and then speak on making art, I promptly purchased Tenth of December. And I’ve already doubled on my investment.

Every time I pick it up, his thoughts collide with my mine and make beautiful little explosions of possibility and euphoria in my head. This combustion of ideas steadily grows as I read on, until I’m filled with an overwhelmingly intense pressure to release this pent up energy. Then comes the breakthrough. A problem I hadn’t even identified in my novel was solved just by reading and revisiting what I had written earlier that day. And with it came new dimensions to my story, another way to look at my characters and see who they are, not what I wanted them to be.

If there’s a little more room left for advice, you should always read with a pen handy. And maybe a tissue, too.