Read Like a Reader. Write Like Dr. Frankenstein.

It may seem cliché, but I have loved reading books my entire life. I still have memories of looking through books before I learned to read. I could spend hours studying each illustration from top to bottom and from left to right. Unfortunately, I also remember adding some sketches to books without illustrations because they were too boring. I was never discouraged that I couldn’t read yet and was comforted by the calm reassurance of my mother that one day I would be a reader. She took me to the library, one of my favorite places to be, throughout my childhood.

When I finally learned to read, I developed a hunger for words. I read every street sign, every bottle in the bathroom, and every book I could get my hands on. I read every book in my house including the first aid manual and the dictionary from cover to cover. In fact, the dictionary was my favorite thing to read. Even now, I love to look up words and feel nostalgic when I see a dictionary on a bookshelf. When our dog was hit by a car and I was the one to find him, I went straight to the bookstore because it comforted me to be among them. Books have always been my friends. I was the little girl who could disappear for hours, curled up with a pile of books in a quiet corner. Starting at the age of 10, when I wasn’t reading I was writing poetry. Writing helped me to navigate the dark and difficult waters of adolescence. At 12 years old, I declared that I would become an author and that dream never left.

My son was born with the same voracious hunger for words and just ended his sophomore year as an English Major. Classics were some of my favorite things to read so when I bought a modern book for him I’d insist he read a classic as well. One of my favorite stories became one of his as well: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. My son started writing for fun at the age of 12. Prior to writing, he drew his own comic books with characters he made up. The main character of my children’s book series also has a lifetime love of books and sharing them with everyone she meets. Encouraging reading is something I have loved to do for all my adulthood. I feel like reading is one of the keys to a child’s future. When I was a professional clown and had one on one time with a little one while face painting or twisting a balloon I had three questions: What grade are you in? What is your favorite subject and Do you love to read? I then told them about my lifelong love of reading and encouraged them to read for the fun of it. If they said their favorite subject was science, I would tell them that one day they could grow up to be a scientist or even teach science to other children. Some children shrugged it off or nodded in agreement. I treasured the ones whose eyes widened as they embraced possibilities they’d never thought of. Truly children are a gift and should be encouraged to dream of their futures and pursue an increase in information about things they are interested in.

However, I digress. My purpose for writing this blog is to correlate writing and reading. Something that frustrated me for years when working on a new book was getting struck with “writer’s block”. Sometimes it was because of an international event that caused strong emotions and sometimes it was because I allowed everything else to get in the way. After attending several webinars and online classes for writers, I had an epiphany. Part of the reason I was getting stuck was an unspoken need to write a story from beginning to end and in that order. The thing is, no one says you must do that. In general, you READ a book that way but a story can be built in pieces and then assembled later into a coherent story that has a beginning, middle, and end. Once I realized this I finished a story I had been stuck on for six months in one night. I was more than half way through but stuck about how to finish the story. I decided instead to cut the first part out and then finish with a completely different direction.

Huzzah! What a liberating thing it is to discover the freedom that brought! I want everyone to feel that freedom so by the fact that you’ve read these words and perhaps a little light bulb has quickly switched on for you as well, consider these words your license to write your story in pieces. Dr. Frankenstein your story! Cut it up, move it around, stand on your head and see things differently. I would proceed with caution on that last suggestion. Be free, writer! Be free!

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