• The Math of Writing

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in WBN News & Events     Comments 1 comment

    The more I read, the more ideas I have. Movies and TV work to an extent, but books usually have more in them than a movie or TV show. It should be obvious: more incoming data equals more creativity. “Should” being the key word.

    These past few weeks I’ve been in a bit of a lull. I went from no jobs to two jobs, decided to write six books before I turn 27, and still had two in-person volunteer commitments per week. Reading another book wouldn’t fit into the schedule I’d created for myself. My movie choices were less than inspiring (Hunger Games *coughtwicecough* and Mirror Mirror). All of the TV networks conspired to play reruns for the past several weeks (okay not all, but enough). No surprise that my creative endeavors have been petering out—I’d been feeding my creativity far less than she was used to, but expecting her to do the same amount of work. I suspect this could be some form of self-abuse, but I’m getting off track.

    I analyzed my recent habit of starving my creativity and found that the key element missing was fun. During my creative lull I was reading Bringing the Devil to His Knees, a collection of essays on writing techniques. I read the book because I thought I had to: it was a book one of my writing teachers from college required us to buy. While I did get at least one good tidbit from each essay, it was largely a waste of my time because during the reading the only time I put pen to paper was to take a few notes (most of which read, “This entire essay is a love letter to AUTHOR X, specifically TITLE X, which I haven’t read and now don’t need to because WRITER spoiled it”). For a book to be worth its weight in my precious time it needs to do something for me other than, “Oh, that’s an interesting idea”—it needs to make me want to write.

    Part of the issue with the Devil’s Knees book was that I wasn’t enjoying the process—ideas click when I’m not scouring for the fun. This was surprising to me because I figured reading a book about writing techniques would somehow be more inspiring than reading Brevity & Echo where each bite-sized short short made me think I want my stories to polish up this well.

    Though it sounds like I’m completely downing academic writing books, I’m not. They have their place. But reading a book that’s good for you isn’t the same as reading a good book. Your creative self is smart, and when it craves sustenance you need to feed it: luckily, unlike food, reading whatever you’re craving is always a good thing. Whether that’s something heavy like The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera or something silly like Falling Up by Shel Silverstein, dig in and your creativity will thank you in pages.


    Jacqui Bryant’s love for reading, ability to create adventure, and general curiosity for all things unconventional in life may outweigh her ability to write well. But she hopes not. 

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    Justine Tal Goldberg

    Re: “But reading a book that’s good for you isn’t the same as reading a good book.” I really like this thought. It’s all about balance, right? Books that inform us about craft have their place, as do those that inform our work more directly–not only inform, but inspire.

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