Thursday, September 20, 2007

Literary bleed-through

I've noticed that what I read tends to influence my worldview for a period of time after I finish a book. The effect fades after a while, the length of time determined by how much mental energy I put into the book and how much I enjoyed reading it. I'm also affected by how true the book rings, whether fiction or non-fiction; a book that seems genuine sets up a sort of sympathetic vibration, and the truth in it resonates for quite a while. I mentioned a while ago that my post-Dune water-consciousness has lasted 20 years, so far. After reading a treatise on swords and tactics, I spent a week thinking about getting back into martial arts. After reading Vertical Run, I found myself feeling a little bit of paranoia for a day or two. After reading "Million Dollar Murray", I spent a few weeks looking differently at the chronically homeless who live downtown.

I've figured out that I can take advantage of this; the time to clean my office is immediately after finishing Getting Things Done, not a few days later when the resonance has faded. I've also discovered that a steady (though meager) diet of books about writing, written by writers I respect, is highly motivating. I can't imagine sitting down and reading any writing book cover-to-cover; I've tried, but I generally can't get more than a chapter or two in before I figure out that my time would be better spent writing, than reading about writing. But listening to a bit of Stephen King reading the audiobook of On Writing on the bike ride home is inspirational. I'm a lot more likely to write when I get home than to play video games.

I've got a decent collection of books on writing, which I've picked up over the years when I've had trouble writing and wanted something educational and/or inspirational to read. Currently on the pile next to my chair: Lawrence Block's Telling Lies for Fun and Profit; Stephen King's On Writing, both in text and audiobook; Terry Brooks's Sometimes the Magic Works; Orson Scott Card's Characters and Viewpoint; John Scalzi's YNFAWYTYLtaCS: SoW; and The Writer's Digest Guide to Novel Writing. I've made it a habit of picking up a book from this pile and reading a few pages before I start writing every day, and it's been a good habit so far.

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