the pursuit of literature

as a budding writer, i am always game for gaining new advice from published and veteran authors.  and doubtlessly, if you also care to seek out sage authorly advice you will find that the most often uttered words of encouragement and guidance is "Read"
they tell us that to read good books is to write good books, and so lay upon our shoulders the pressing urge to only delve into good novels.
and, 'good' novels, its a complicated place.
do they mean, "good" as in, perfectly constructed plots, worlds, and characters?
can we even find such books?
can we even find enough such books to keep us well in stock?
or, is it only classical novels, great dickens, sweet austin, gothic bronte?
what is a good book?
it's actually rather stressful, when you stop in think about it (please don't. i have done the thinking, far too much of it. thinking is a wonderful thing, but sometimes it is overrated).

as such, i have been thinking, and feeling guilty when i read a book that i know isn't award winning, or a published star trek fan fiction (oh my weakness. i just have a hard time letting go of my enterprise world).  when i secretly fall in love with these books, and stroke their covers and whisper that i love them even despite their flaws, i feel like i am betraying myself inside.
if i love them, does that mean, i will decrease in my ability to write beautiful things?

and so you see my over thinking analysis of things,  to write good books, surely i must only read good books. and to a soul that finds comfort in even the most cheap, cliche ridden, and stereotype filled novels, it was a slight problem.

today, i finished robin mckinley's the blue sword (mrs. mckinley is probably my all time favorite writer. whatever people say about j.k rowling being the goddess of writing, they are looking in the wrong, wrong, wrong place. if i had to describe the perfect book, it would surely come from underneath her pen), and i went to her website, and browsed through her book list, yearning for those i haven't read, and discovering that yesterday she released her newest novel, shadows. and i will not unleash my jubilantly pounding feelings over that matter, but, just know, i am feeling right now.
up at the top, there was a little "faq" page, and i clicked, interested in learning more about her.
and there was a "do you have any advice for people who would like to become writers?" bit, and, as mentioned at the top, i clicked.

oh how glad i am that i did.

she opens with a, "Just this: Read as much as you can and write as much as you can. Reading feeds your own story-telling" which, was rather a bit expected, but, then she continued, "Follow your nose through the library or the bookshop shelves or your friends' recommendations or intriguing reviews on and off line; read what you can feel feeds you, that you can feel yourself sitting up straighter to pay better attention to, that excites you and makes you want to learn more, or want to go to that place again, or think more about something you've only just realised, or only just seen a new angle on. This includes, by the way, a category I will call Good Trash"
 and never had i felt more releaved, seriously, i almost wished to cry.
i very much doubt she knows what she did to this heart of a seventeen year old girl, and how she finally shone a light on my fears, and showed me that there weren't any fears to be afraid of at all.
it made sense.

reading isn't a thing to be honed and skilled, and picky about.
read what pulls you.
just as when you walk into a bakery with the intent upon buying a cake, you don't look at a cake and choose the one that is dry and healthy, but the one that you want because it will taste good, and satisfy what you wanted.
not that all good books are dry and boring, since mrs. mckinley writes phenomenally good books, as does stienbeck, dickens, and bronte. 
but if you have to wrestle yourself to read a book that is 'perfect' just because it is perfect and should, hopefully, help you write perfect, it isn't perfect for you.

i do not believe i have ever read a book, even those which severely lacked in supposed perfectness, that didn't open up the world a little, even a little bit, for me.

no book is perfect, no book has perfect characters. or perfect plot. or perfect writing style.
if you asked me, even i could tell you a bad thing about even robin mckinley's books, though it would pain my heart since i love every single one i have read.

a book is only as perfect as you would like it to be.

don't feel like your taste in reading is any less classy than the girl or boy who carries stienbeck and c.s lewis along in their hands everywhere they go.
don't hide your star trek fan fiction because you are afraid of not having a very 'good' choice in reads.
the fantasy novel you are reading may not be tolkien, but that doesn't matter. it doesn't have to be.

if it pulls you, if it brings you to it's shelf, and reaches for you, then read it.

i am immensely happy reading almost anything.
books on a mass scale just make me happy.
great books.
famous books.
books with parts i skip.
books that keep me glued from blank page before chapter one to blank page after the end.
books that bring me back to the federation space.
books that transport me to1800s england
books that take my hand and guide me through fantasy places.
books that are mainly read as school book reports.
and books that are read for fun and no other reason.

you take something from every book you read and every world you visit.

who is to tell you that a certain world and a certain word is lesser than the next.

or perhaps i just over thought this whole topic.

did i?



  1. I think this is a really good topic. Because for me, I have only recently gotten into the classics (Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, etc), the years of reading before this were spent on 'lesser' books (though I hate to call them that, because they aren't). I've gotten several compliments on my writing.. but I do not think that I have gotten amazing at writing just because the last 3 years I have been reading the (yes amazing) Classics, but because I have simply read - read anything and everything I can get my hands on from C.s Lewis to a Star Wars 'fan fiction'. Reading 'bad' novels (bad in the sense of bad writing..), though not on exactly on purpose, will only help you to avoid writing like that. If we don't know what bad writing is.. how are we suppose to know if ours is good or bad? While classics and amazing books are good to read, it's also good to read books that are simply written.. like you already pointed out. :P

    Love this post, thanks for sharing!

  2. This just made me feel a good deal better. I love to read the Classics, but sometimes I just love to curl up and read books like Phantom by Susan Kay (which really OUGHT to be a classic, mind you). Loved this!!!!!


Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.
- Blaise Pascal