I’ve found that when I read often, I write better and more often. In honor of that, I’ll share with you some of the ways I or other writers try to keep words around us throughout the day.
Surround Yourself with Words
I had a professor once who pushed us to write at least 120 pages of a novel in a semester, and one of the requirements he gave us, which I didn’t understand then and ignored, was to carry around this leather bound book that you could fill with all the pages you’ve written. He wrote at least double the length he required us to write that semester. He would print off the pages he wrote each day, add them to the book, and make revisions in the margins. I wouldn’t buy the book because it was expensive and because I find it impossible to write in anything leather (it’s just so official that I’m afraid to fail, which of course is necessary to write and to learn, so I end up leaving most leather bound notebooks empty). I didn’t want to be show-boat-y, toting around a giant leather bound book with my amateur first draft of a first novel inside. What I didn’t realize was that it could have been any book or folder or binder that I carried around. It could have been a pocket folder I made out of newspaper or a paper bag. The point was to keep my story near me so that I was always thinking about it, gathering ideas and details, listening to the way people spoke, remembering always that in my hands was a story I would fling myself back into the next morning and the next.
Whatever you can do to make sure you’re constantly paying attention to the world around you is key. Another professor I’ve had writes a goal for the next day’s writing session every day. A writer friend of mine observes and records two interesting details for each of the senses every day. Many writers read every day. I read slowly, try to read every night, but find audio readings to be an equally great way to keep myself thinking about craft and how other’s put their stories together. When I fold laundry or cut vegetables, I usually listen to a story or an interview with a writer I admire instead of the radio (there’s many literary journals that have an audio component, including Narrative Magazine, Pank, and The New Yorker).
The point is to keep words around you, to try to keep your mind open and to be observant at all times. Every moment and experience should be a chance to learn something or to utilize something, and once words becomes a part of your life in this way, writing and detail gathering becomes something you don’t have to force but instead something you can’t stop yourself from actively doing throughout the day.
Christina Glessner is a third-year MFA candidate in Fiction at the University of New Mexico. She is Managing Editor for Blue Mesa Review.