Doctors read journals and take continuing education courses to learn the latest techniques for their specialty. Teachers attend seminars and learn new teaching methods to help their students learn better. Even artists often pick up new mediums and styles throughout their careers… how many periods did Picasso go through?
Writing is no different – we thrive when we spend time in the medium that we write.
I grew up addicted to reading. I would often read a new book in days, sometimes staying up until three in the morning to finish a particularly addicting tale. I read thousands of different books, and was widely conversant with what was going on in both the science fiction and fantasy worlds.
I would go to see every SFF movie I could in the theater – I famously saw Star Wars: A New Hope seven times when I was nine – and if a new YV series came out in one of my two favorite genres, I was there for it.
Then life happened.
I married a wonderful, beautiful man whose sole fault is that he’s not a science fiction fan like me. Sure, he’ll go in for the occasional superhero flick/series, and has dipped his toe in the Star Wars and Star Trek pools. I have to give him credit – he tried to like it more. But as he has said to me on several occasions, he has no interest in stories “about people with three heads.” So we don’t watch much speculative fiction together.
Then our work took over our lives. We started our own business in 1998, and we now run nine websites of our own and help an additional dozen or so website clients. I get up by 6 AM and work until about 10 PM seven days a week, with meal and bathroom breaks and the occasional outing in-between.
And finally, Amazon launched the Kindle and Mark and I moved into a much smaller place, severely limiting the room for physical books. Reading a book on your screen is fine. In some ways it’s better than a physical book – there’s the ease of carrying your entire library in your pocket, and the ability to read in bits and pieces anywhere you are.
But I miss the feel of physical books, the smell of the paper, and the weight in my hands. And I miss having dedicated time set aside to lounge on the couch or in bed and just disappear into a book with no distractions.
For a long time, I didn’t read at all, a drastic change that still makes me sad when I think about it. Angel urged me to get back into it – how could a writer, especially of speculative fiction, create believable stories when he was stuck in the sci-fi past?
“With what time?” I’d ask, dismayed that my whole life was now work.
It wasn’t until I gave into Kindle that I realized I had lots of little bits of time that, if added up, could be enough to read a book or two now and then. Encouraged by this revelation, I embarked on a reading journey, and since June of 1992, I’ve gotten through forty-six books. While fifteen books a year may be a far cry from what I used to read, it’s something.
I also recently bought a treat for myself – a hardcover book by one of my favorite authors. Now I just have to schedule a little couch time to read it.
In late June, I broke my arm. It was a terrible thing – painful, expensive, and life disrupting – and it almost nixed our attendance at our first Con since the pandemic began.
But it gave me the gift of time – a month and a half where I had to do my work on the couch, in front of the television. And in that period I managed to watch a bunch of the recent SFF series I’d been dreaming about – including Foundation, Strange New Worlds, See, The Witcher, The Expanse, Altered Carbon, and more. I also binge-watched all the LOTR films and all the main series Star Wars films in order for the first time.
There were so many cool ideas in those various shows, enough to start to fill in the gaps and refill my writer’s font! Now that I’m off the couch and back in the office, I’ve still found a bit of time each morning to keep watching some great spec fic shows.
All that SFF goodness is stewing and gurgling in my writer brain as I prepare to start on my first new book project in two years – the sequel to Dropnauts.
And so I have to (grudgingly) admit that Angel was right. In truth, I knew it all along, but I just couldn’t see my way clear to do it. Until I could.
I may not be a doctor or a teacher or an artist, but as an author, I need fresh ideas and perspectives just as much as they so, to make sure my work doesn’t get stale. And now that I have them, I can’t wait to see what they inspire. 🙂
To my author friends, how do you find time to refresh your writer font, and how does this fresh inspiration come out in your work?