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We love to read. This is one of the reasons we grew up to become writers. We spent our summers in libraries and carried heavy tomes around with us to read in our spare moments. To extend our reading long into the night, we stuffed towels under our bedroom doors, lest our parents see our lights were on.
Our reading shaped us into writers, people who feel in our bones the rhythm and rhyme of a story. We often penned our first tales before we could even write words, illustrating them with the primitive art of storytelling. Later we wrote in notebooks, keeping our own private volumes of stories. We kept journals. We recorded our lives.
We who are older grew up on manual typewriters, feeling the rhyme of the story in the staccato strokes of the keys, the cold steel of the carriage return lever, and the swinging thud of the return.
But, as we became immersed in our lives as writers, cultural and business changes in the publishing industry cast us into the role of marketer as well as author. We didn’t count on this. It consumes more than half our time.
This is not what nurtures a writer’s soul. We need the intake of words.
To encourage you, I’ve been suggesting radical actions—helping one another by reviewing the work of other authors, writing the words God gives you, no matter how controversial, and trusting him to secure the audience for those words.
Now I have another suggestion: Don’t neglect your reading.
I’m going about this in a way that allows me to read new works of fiction, so I can leave reviews for other authors. But, I’ve also realized that my soul craves, and indeed needs, those classic works of fiction that motivated my writer’s soul in the first place. I’m returning to Dickens, Austen, Undset, Bronte, Alcott, and Gaskell.
These authors knew how to write a moral tale without preaching. They knew how to make the point within the story and to shape the story to present the moral choice in a way that transformed the reader. Now that we’re writers with an eye for method, reading them reveals exactly how they did it.
I’m also reading Christian writers of the last century—the ones who wrote with such superlative skill that they were featured by secular press like the New York Times Magazine.
The poetic words of Marjorie Holmes were a catalyst for me. In 1972, the first book I ever read in the Christian fiction genre was Two from Galilee. I’m revisiting her work.
A new discovery for me is Christian writer John L. Moore, who started out as a newspaper man. While reading his work, I’m observing how a man tells a tale—a vital lesson for a female writer with a male audience. Because I’m working on my western sequel, Moore’s work in the Ezra Riley series is timely.
I’m sure you have your own favorites. So, why isn’t this a waste of time when we should be marketing?
There are several reasons.
We have the souls of writers and the hearts of people who love the Lord. To write for Jesus, we must nurture both aspects of our spiritual selves. We must read stories and poems that uplift our souls and touch our hearts. Also, we must meditate on and fix our roots down deep into God’s Word and into stories—Biblical and otherwise—that impress upon us those truths. These are non-negotiable if we want to continue without burning out and giving up.
Additionally, we must develop our craft. If you’re like me, you have shelves full of books on writing. You’ve worked through those, implementing what you learn there. But, we also need to read good fiction in order to feel and absorb these lessons, so they become a natural part of us. Reading makes us better writers. It always has.
And so, dear writer, I’m encouraging you to read. If need be, neglect your marketing to do it. The fruit is too valuable. Feed your soul.