23 August 2007

Seven things that inspire me: five: books

What writer could not include these? Whether they're textbooks on how to write, textbooks on how to fight with swords (my newest acquisition, and how exciting is that?), or whether their literary novels with language that sings, a poetry journal with images that startle, how could I not love them. Of course my favourite of all is the sprawling fat fantasy novel, preferably in a set of at least three, that will transport me to another world.

Books could be my number one inspiration -- but sometimes I'll read something that is so wondrous that I'll wonder why I am doing this. It's not so much a point about whether I am capable of writing such a thing as much as it is a point about feeling the need to write, when I have clearly found a book someone else has written that fills that same need in me. Strange, isn't it?

We say to our students that they must read widely -- both inside the genre they're writing in and outside. It astounds me how little some of these kids read. I sometimes feel, because I studied science instead of arts, that I'm very underread. And in my years at high school we never once studied the bard, though I did read Romeo and Juliet of my own accord. Would love to read MacBeth and King Lear. These kids, some of them, haven't even heard of Dostoevski, another writer I read for pleasure. So even though I feel underread compared to some of my teaching peers, I find I talk books with them and realise I have actually read a lot. But no matter how much you do read, there's always so much more that you can't. Oh, how I'd like to be a faster reader, because compared to some of my friends I am quite slow. And I do read *every* word -- after all, as a writer I craft every word, so I'm not expecting people to be skipping over them. And I suppose I'm always dipping into technical manuals and magazines and reading Poetrix submissions, and student manuscripts, but I'd like more time to read for pleasure. Because pleasure it is. I often now feel guilty when I curl up with a book because I put everything: the kids, emails, my writing, my pets, the whole world, on hold. But I try to tell myself I'm not indulging myself -- I am working, learning how to hone my own writing, drawing on the techniques that other writers use, but that knowledge doesn't stop the experience from feeling self-indulgent, purely because it is so pleasurable.

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