(For the last 12 weeks of 2014, in thanks for my phenomenal year of growth here at Negression and in my overall writing life, I am offering my Spirit of Writing practices here. I have taught these lessons and sessions in schools, libraries and community programs in Chicago and New York City. I will post new segments each Wednesday. Happy writing!)
Writers should not expect to just solely focus on their works. You have to give attention to other writers and their writing as well. If you are here to read this, thank you, for giving attention to my writing. One of the biggest lessons given to writers is to self-teach yourself and READ! I want to add to that: READ and SHARE.
There are many more than you out here who are looking for creative bonds, fortification collaboration and moral support. Although it appears solitary, writing is a collaboration at all times. It is an exchange. Normally, when people write just to get out feelings, it is called a journal or diary. However, anything a writer would like to share needs readers. It is perhaps unfair, and certainly more difficult, to expect people to read your work if you do not read any one else’s. And, even if you are so busy writing your own work it is hard to read others’, you can also be a champion for other writers.
I first read most of my favorite books because someone told me to: either a teacher, relative or a friend. My only all-time favorite book I can recall finding all on my own was Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, which I discovered on the library cart when I was an adolescent (the book gave me permission to start creating brown girl characters like me in my stories, and not white characters I saw in books predominately). So, the words from your mouth may often be the most powerful collaboration you can make with your fellow writers (and easiest).
If you do like a book or a blog, let people know. Of course, use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and WordPress to publicize what you’re fanatic about. But it gets crowded in these venues; so many other people are doing what you are doing because it is so quick to do. When you actually speak something and put the words out personally to someone, I think it kind of sticks better.
Once in a while, leave a note on a blog you like. Find a book and review it, or just tell others to read it. If you feel it is stellar, write a review of the book alone or a comparison of it to another work you feel is similar. If you feel it was a bummer, I don’t see any good in announcing that to the world unless you are a professional book critic who has to do so.
I remember it took me many years to finally read the book PUSH by Sapphire. I’d first only seen the cover and title shrouded within what appeared to be a media attack on the novel. The reviewer or critic did not like the novel, its characters or its contents. This reviewer’s disgust was expressed was so strongly I fled from the work just from the sense one review gave. I do not even remember where I saw this, but it was not a major publication. Did not matter. I had had enough.
I only picked PUSH up years later because I was bored in a bookstore, waiting for a friend to finish chatting with an author she knew. The first few pages of PUSH had such a powerful and profound effect on me I wound up moving to New York to study with its author. The story was nothing like I imagined from a critic’s words, its framing in the press, etc… It was elegant, painful but triumphant, about love and friendship and effort and trying to survive. That is my particular taste and we are all entitled to our own tastes. However, what you say and write about art, books and literature do matter. In the long run, the very powerfully negative review stuck with me until I read the book to see for myself.
I am still trying to finish them up so I will not fully review them, but books I can champion and put out there for others to try is Bridgett Davis’s Into The Go-Slow. Another one out there is Death Comes to Pemberley, the 2011 novel from legendary mystery writer PD James, who passed away in her home in Oxford this year. PBS aired a television adaptation of the work last month. A blog I have found especially powerful is My Dreams Matter, accompanied by videos and other creativity reinforcers. Any others?