Feed Your Writing

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.


About T A Smith

Just one of the literacy scholars on this site who wants to explore writing in all its complexities.
This entry was posted in Asides, Poetry, Reflections, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to Feed Your Writing

  1. hames1977 says:

    you have taken me into a very good lecture. that there is a connection between reading and writing. my favorites so far is paulo coelho, ernest hemingway, khaled hosseini, milan kundera and colm toibin.

    thanks for sharing this. it was really helpful.

    • Yousei Hime says:

      I really enjoyed this lecture too. It inspired and challenged with some practical steps. I always welcome those because I am not always good at finding my own ways to live something. You’ve shared at least three writers I am unfamiliar with and I look forward to finding out more about them. Thank you for stopping in and sharing your thoughts.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I appreciated this post – it inspires me to keep writing and keep reading. Often my problem is that I hate to sit still – I always feel that I should be doing something. If I just get started, then things pan out okay. Thanks for the reminder. Blessings.

  3. hames1977 says:

    wow thanks. it is an affirmation that reading widens the writer’s perspective. reading is essential to good writing. a very good post indeed.

    • Yousei Hime says:

      It encourages me to know so many have found this information useful. Now if I could only find the time to put it into use myself. Sigh. Thank you for your visit and comment.

  4. heartshapedlies says:

    WOW. This is awesome 🙂 Just what I was looking for! College is hectic, but I still try to catch up on reading and writing in my free time. Reading outside my comfort zone is one of my goals this year. I try to pick up books I normally wouldn’t pick up and read more classics, poetry and non-fiction. And it’s actually been an amazing experience so far 🙂 I’ll have to try reading LOTR again sometime. I couldn’t get through it in sixth grade and didn’t really pick it up again :s
    Anyway, thanks so much for posting this!

  5. dustus says:

    Appreciate you posting these notes. Very helpful and insightful. Thanks

  6. Carmen says:

    A couple months ago, I made a new commitment to reading more and spending less time in front of both screens–puter and tv. I can’t believe how much I’m enjoying the reading.

    Be sure you own those books when you’re all writin’ in ’em and stuff, though.
    Your friend the librarian

    • Yousei Hime says:

      I understand what you mean about “enjoying the reading.” I’ve been helping my eldest make his way through his English for summer school. This has meant rereading a lot of American writers, some I had never read. It has been fun and fascinating–Poe, Hughes, Lincoln, Hawthorne, Whitman, Longfellow, Frost, Millay, London, O’Neill and several others. Some confirmed my tastes (I don’t like Fitzgerald) and others sparked new or renewed interests. So good to exercise the mind.

  7. lesliepaints says:

    This is a totally interesting post, Yousei! I am not a writer but love to read, as you know. I have been inspired to draw and paint by things I have read as well as by the great artists. Edward P. Jones inspired me to paint his character Crazy Alice. I have found, even though I love Van Gogh, Homer and John Singer Sargeant, I can not paint like them. It feels more like I become energized by their work and want to do better with my own. Cool post.

    • Yousei Hime says:

      Of course these ideas probably work for almost any medium, especially art. I love looking at your list. I’ll have to do a little research on the artists you mentioned. I know the latter three but am unfamiliar with Jones. I know exactly what you mean when you said you feel energized. Reading something really good just gets my entire being humming, inside and out. Thanks so much for stopping in and sharing.

      • lesliepaints says:

        Hi Yousei, Edward P Jones wrote “The Known World”. A character in his book is Crazy Alice. I painted her from my imagination of what he wrote about her. He is a writer.

        • Yousei Hime says:

          Ha! Shows you how little I know. Alright, I’ll have to look up Mr. Jones the writer then. Thanks for the information. Stay cool. That’s what I’m trying to do. 😉

  8. luiscongdon says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article. It reminded me of being at school again. I used to write inside my books, take notes, and write reflections. Reading your article got me doing those things again. It has really helped me write more and it has been fun to see my thought responses to stuff I read.

    You really did a great job here. Thanks.

    • Yousei Hime says:

      I believe, at least for me, I have to go back to basics and in a sense, reboot my writing. That’s what this post was for me. I expect some more reflective posts while arise out of these notes. So glad my post could inspire you to take a closer look at your own writing. Thank you for visiting and sharing your thoughts.

  9. jruthkelly says:

    This is a great list…I’m staring at the book I just posted a quote from right now and it has notes in the “sidelines.” Now I can feel like a real reader and not a defacer! :0) Rilke’s one of my faves…Letters to a Young Poet.

    • Yousei Hime says:

      Hey Cuz!
      Glad someone else defaces books in the name of learning. I really have to get my hands on some Rilke–keeps popping up in my reading and world in general. Letters to a Young Poet . . . I’ll look that one up first. Thanks for the visit and shared thoughts.

  10. Tacy says:

    Great advice! Very helpful for writers or those who want to take up writing. Thanks!

  11. Amity says:

    Dear Yousei;

    I have missed you in my blog as I am also missing some of your posts. Thanks for sharing this post. Reminds me of my days when I would be struggling how to write a very short story and you were there to help me or rather I’d ask you to see my work. Thank you for the patience you have extended in those times. Now, I would like again to ask you some comments regarding how I have improved ever since you took time helping me out with a story of mine.

    I know you will surely give me an honest-to-goodness evaluation of how I took your tutoring then. If you have time, just kinda read a couple of my last short story posts and see if it meets somehow your criteria.

    Thanks Yousei, this post of yours again helped me a lot or rather will help me go on writing and writing.

    Have a great weekend and a wonderful week ahead…:-)

    Yours as always,


    • Yousei Hime says:

      Thank you for stopping by. I haven’t had time to visit many sites at all lately. Although we recently got wi-fi (a definite improvement over dial-up), I now have to compete for time on our one computer. My laptop died, and I just can’t replace it right now. Thus we are a one computer family with a teenager who has to complete two full-year courses online before then end of next week. He gets priority. Keep visiting and reminding me and I’ll stop by sometime in August if not before.

      • Amity says:

        Yeah….I do understand dear…of course we are always in such a dilemma, competing with kids over use of lappy or pc, I also do!

        Btw, come August when you will have full access to net, please join us at Haiku Heights, hosted by one of my blog pals Leo. It’s a new meme about haiku writing and I thought of inviting you because you were writing haikus with gusto. I know you will like this place.

        Do visit when you have time dear and here is the link: http://haiku-heights.blogspot.com/

        See you there soon and have a nice day… 🙂 Hugs!!!!

  12. Artswebshow says:

    I read hundreds of books growing up and i suppose that influenced me to a certain extent.It sounds like a really interesting conference

    • Yousei Hime says:

      It was an interesting conference, and I wish I had time to go to more. Perhaps motivation would stay higher with more lectures like these. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  13. slpmartin says:

    Thanks ever so much for providing your notes on the presentation…it was quite interesting to see your comments and reflect upon how they might impact my writing …again many thanks.

    • Yousei Hime says:

      You are very welcome. The lecture was both reaffirming and challenging. Hope you find my simplified notes some of both. Thanks for stopping in and leaving your comment. Your visits and thoughts are always welcome.

  14. blissbait says:

    Hey! It’s wonderful that You gifted Yourself that conference! Sounds amazing. I liked the notes You shared. Thank You! And as for the writers that I love….well…Hafiz rocks me completely! I also love Tom Robbins to pieces. He makes me laugh and laugh. SO SEXY is he! 😆 And I really do love Anne Rice. I also like Harold Pinter’s plays VVVEEERRRYYYY much. Oh Lord. And Tom Eynes (spell?) is a genius playwright. Anne Sexton’s poetry rips me to shreds. Every time. Even when I have NO earthly idea what in the hell she’s talking about! Joni Mitchel’s ‘Blue’ is some of my favourite songwriting. This could just go on and on and on! OH! And I share Your love for Tolkien! Isn’t that him above? I read ‘The Hobbit’ to my son twice before he was ten. He begged for a third time but I was burnt out….so I read him the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. The whole thing. He loved that so much that a second read occurred. There is such magical writing out there! We’re just cowrazy blessed! I love all the writing I read here in blog land as well. Okay. Thanks for this! I’m off! Cheers and Namaste. 🙂

    • Yousei Hime says:

      Thank you for your visit and comment. I am really enjoying reading and learning about others’ favorite writers. So many I haven’t heard of. FYI–I read The Lord of the Rings every year from late junior high through college, then life got in the way. I may just have to break it out and read it again soon. Tolkien is definitely my favorite. Your son is a lucky boy.

  15. OOO I LOVE the image of the poetic rabbit! Way cool fun. Oh I agree about reading in order to become a better writer. Reading with attention to how others write–what they write, how, why–can help one become more aware of our own processes in so many ways. Even when we discover writers we don’t ‘like’ much –that tells us about our own minds and creative process. I for one am NOT a fan of Hemmingway. But I do admire Faulkner’s works–and if you’ve read both writers you are aware of their vast differences in everything from style to subject. So–my perference tells a great deal about me as a reader–and what I appreciate in writing.
    Some writers who have ‘inflluenced’ me–Shakespeare, Faulkner, Yeats, Thomas Middleton, etc… here’s a link to a list of some of my favorite books–writers: http://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/?s=books+reading

    thump! thump! thump!

    • Yousei Hime says:

      Buffalo Gal,
      Thanks so much for the visit and the comment, especially answering the final question. I’m going to check out the link after this comment. I think every writer as has influenced me, just some more than others. I love Shakespeare and Yeats too. See you around. 😀

  16. Jingle says:

    great hints,
    Glad to see you shine with knowledge and humor,
    first of all,
    you are wiser, more mature, and well rounded…

  17. william says:


  18. Pingback: On the Duty of Civil Disobedience (Walden) Books | The Books Stores

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