People always ask if I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and I say no. But then I quickly admit that I’ve always been a reader. Am still reading Jane Smiley’s 13 Ways, and I loved what she said about novelists and reading. An excerpt:
“While the desire to write a novel does not guarantee that the resulting novel will be a good one . . . it is the only way to begin. Most often it grows out of a compulsive habit of reading as a child . . .
“We were reading because it was easy and fun and because we were unsupervised. We were reading to find companions more congenial than those around us. We wanted to fill our heads with nonsense and tune out practical considerations. We were not, most likely, athletic or useful sorts of children. We were reluctant to help around the house or to go outside and play. We did not have very good manners, because in numerous ways . . . reading books is deleterious to good manners. We did not have good sleep habits, because if we had, we would not have read under the bedcovers with a flashlight, or held the book up to the moon that shone through the window, and ruined our eyes.”
And this is the best part:
“We were reading because we had two lives, an inner life and an outer life, and they were equally important to us and equally vivid. A novelist is someone whose inner experience is as compelling as the details of his or her life, someone who may owe more to another author, never met, than to a close relative seen every day. A novelist has two lives–a reading and writing life, and a lived life. He or she cannot be understood at all apart from this.”
Well said, Jane.