Several months ago I attend the Coshocton Write-On Writers Conference. I enjoyed the experience, but the keynote speaker’s address was the best and most inspiring of the events for me. Terry Hermsen, 2009 Ohio Poet of the Year and professor at Otterbein College, spoke on the relationship between our lives as readers and writers. I’ve long understood that there was a connection, but I’ve also heard it said that one should not muddy writing by reading. Hermsen did not agree and neither do I. What follows are my notes from the session.
Here are ways to avoid writing deafness:
- Read to expand as a writer. Forget about being influenced.
- Write as a conversation between author and reader, not as a lecture.
- Just as musicians and artists learned from/were influenced by the masters, so are writers.
- Memorization is a way to use others’ words to view the world around us. Haiku “sees” using metaphor. Memorization adds to our conversation and our vision.
Here are some suggestions for growing through reading:
- Write a response to something you have read.
- Take a writer you know and get to know them better, finding the poet in the “master.”
- Memorize–you’ll be amazed by when these words spring to mind and what they add to the situation.
- Read slower, take time with what you read. Don’t rush.
- Write in the columns of your books. Make notes of reactions, thoughts–keep the conversation going in the margin.
- Read aloud and hear the conversation.
- Read outside of what you understand, outside your comfort zone.
I’ve long loved reading. I started writing because I wanted to read more books like my favorites. My inner world expanded with everything I read. My writing world can do the same. I love the idea of the conversation between writer and reader. Just as no two people think the same nor even understand the same concept in the same way, just so a writer may communicate something unexpected and a reader me hear something unintended. I think the best writers are those that communicate both what they intended and beyond their intentions.
I like many of Hermsen’s suggestions–reading more, writing as conversation, memorizing, writing in response/conversation, getting to know the poet, and even reading outside my comfort zone. On that last one, that would be non-fiction, fiction I don’t like, poetry I don’t understand, and a host of other things. Who knows what I’ll learn and how I’ll grow. Exciting just thinking about it.
I’ll end by asking the question that started Hermsen’s session:
Who are the writers who have inspired you?
These are just a few of mine.