Image source: ADateToPaint
They say that if you want to be a better writer you need to write what you know and to write every day.
But perhaps as important as writing every day is the value of reading every day - reading the good writing of others, reading what they know.
I'm faithful to the first rule above, not so faithful to the second.
Vacation offers more time for writing and, more importantly, more time for reading. At the suggestion of a friend I've begun reading Pat Conroy's South of Broad. I have no fantasies about writing a novel but reading an author like Conroy reopens the mind to the mastery over words that some writers command. Just in the first few pages, gems like these...
The novel's first-person narrator describing his father:
A stargazer of the first order, he squealed with pleasure on the moonless nights when the stars winked at him in some mysterious, soul-stirring graffiti of ballet-footed light. He would clap his hands with irresistible joy on a cloudless night when he made every star in the sky a silver dollar in his pocket.And describing his mother:
He was more North star than father.
Singularly, without artifice or guile, my mother's world seemed disconsolate and tragic before she really knew how tragic life could be. Once she learned that no life could avoid the consequences of tragedy, she softened into an ascetic's acknowledgment of the illusory nature of life. She became a true believer in the rude awakening.Both descriptions craft an image from everyday words that yield far more about the two characters than any five lines might be expected to offer.
Like a painter at his palette, Conroy's brush deftly dips into simple colors, mixing and applying them to the canvass of a page, leaving us with art: impressionistic and realistic in one stroke.
Exposure to good writing ignites a writer's imagination - just a few chapters of Conroy has done that for me. Simply reading his prose is a sort of writer's workshop: not instruction, not a lesson, but an experience of writing that stirs the imagination and a desire to write, to write what one knows and to write as compellingly as possible.
Thank God for this summer break and for the time to read!
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