The Writer’s Life … Reading, Movies and Music …

A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Reading …

When I began to write full-time, I became lazy about my reading. Where I once read up to three books a week, I went down to almost zero. I told myself that I could not afford the distraction while I “created.” Blah!

I promised myself I’d catch up between books. Bunk!

I did read for my monthly book club and a few books sent to me by friends. And in defense of my lazy-self, I did get Kindle for PC and began to sneak over there between chapters.

In September of 2011, I tried Nina Badzin’s book a week challenge and as is my personality, I read three books one week and then nothing for two. I am the most structured, undisciplined person I have ever met.

No matter what the rationalization, I cannot write worth a dime unless I’m reading as much as I can, of as many genres and styles as I can. To develop structure and mature as a writer we must read all the time, not just between books. The way I work there is no between books.

If I waited to find the time to swim, I would never move a muscle. If I waited to find the time to read, I would never read more than the penny-saver as I hang over my first cup of coffee.

Time is what we make of it.

Graphic Credit

Movies & Music …

Yes, I have been known to go to more than one movie house in one day, or bath happily in hours of commercial free movie marathons.

The opening of the eighties was the era of cable television … when MTV and arcade games were the bomb. My children, however, were the only kids in their class who watched thirteen channels on a 13″ black and white I bought for a few bucks at Habib’s Electronics on 181st in Washington Heights.

They went to friends houses and came back complaining that we were the only humans on the planet that didn’t have wide-screen color television, cable and 35 channels. I told them to go read a book, listen to music or take in a movie.

One afternoon a friend informed me that there was a movie channel on cable. I sat in her living room and watched a commercial free movie on HBO. The next week my children came home to a wide color TV on top of which sat a cable box and I was hooked!

There is a direct connection from the “word” to the live action on-screen. There is no movie or television without the word. Of course, there is no explaining action-packed, block-busters or reality television. Still, there is enough intelligent programming and movie plots to keep the reader in me happy.

Movies and television are the main reasons I can’t change the panster in me. A movie plays out in my head and the characters become real to me.

Ironically, they are also the reason I am obsessed with plotting. Plot points in movies are perfectly balanced and are a great way to learn to balance a novel. Kind of like the best of both worlds.

Music is hand in glove to story line, mood setting, and mind-blowing great music can make me insane with passion, from Aida to Marvin Gaye, from the blues to jazz and all roads leading to nirvana.

When I am writing, I am not aware of my fingers or the computer screen. I am seeing and hearing it all play out in real-time and I have to get it all out there before the screen fades to black.

How to you see the relationship of books, movies and music to your writing?

fOIS In The City

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30 Comments

Filed under Random Thoughts

30 responses to “The Writer’s Life … Reading, Movies and Music …

  1. Brinda Berry

    I believe they all feed the creative soul. I absolutely LOVE movies and music only second behind books. That’s hilarious about you watching commercial free movies at the friend’s house and then buying a better television. 🙂

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    • Yes Brinda, it feeds the hungry soul. The kids were so shocked, they told all their friends. What ensued was many a weekend in the ’80s watching The Breakfast Club and Grease about ten times a month. At that time HBO ran movies over and over all month. I also gave in and bought a VHS.

      The end of all this? Mom bought and recorded over 400 movies 🙂

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  2. Hey Florence,

    First, must address the time issue. Yup, you gotta find time for swimming, reading, whatever. A million years ago I pretty much scheduled time to go to the bathroom. (After this next diaper change and tossing in another load of laundry, I’ll fix lunch, run to the store, grab the mail, then pee.)
    Gotta make time to read, and gotta make time for friends.

    As for movies and TV and books, that repetition in story structure is what made it possible for me to write solid story lines before I studied the craft behind inciting incident, first turning point, black moment and whatnot. Regardless the medium, all three are stories.

    And, as Brinda says, feeding the creative soul.

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    • Sherry, I have a very special place in my heart for the mom/writers out there and the juggling act they go through to be able to write 🙂

      Then you already know Larry Brooks. If not look him up on Story Fix on my sidebar. Discovered him the other day. He brings home the connection and teaches how to learn the craft from the perspective of a screenwriter. Great stuff 🙂

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  3. Checking in here with flushed cheeks and YIKES!

    I have been a slacker in the reading arena of late. Why? Not because I don’t LIKE to read. I love to read. Always have. Always will.

    EXCUSE #1 (true, but still an excuse) — When I start a good book, it consumes me. I do nothing else until I reach “the end.”

    EXCUSE #2 (again, true) — A good read puts me in a bad place in terms of perception of my voice and my talent as a writer. Sherry witnessed this recently. I had to get up from the table (where we took turns reading a book aloud) and walk for a while. I had to regain confidence in MY voice, MY style, MY genre of choice.

    Both can be resolved with self-discipline and a ton of faith in myself. My writing buddies give me nudges along that path. Great post again, Florence.

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    • Gloria, have faith that the balance of the two disciplines will come in time. At first everyone is afraid they will lose their voice when reading books. The trick is to believe that once your voice is strong and you truly trust yourself, you can go back and enjoy others even more 🙂 Write on!!

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  4. Before I put down any words I see what’s happening in my head like a movie. And I absolutely love to watch movies on t.v. and have been hooked on movies for years. Perhaps that explains why I see the action in my head before I write the words….I don’t know.
    And when I started to write I completely quit reading too. Then I kept reading about how we HAVE to read a lot to be able to write better. So now I always have a book at hand.

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    • Isn’t it the truth, Patti? I used to think I was some kind of weird until I started meeting other writers who do the same thing. It might be a reoccuring theme with all of us at the beginning. Then as I said to Gloria, our voice becomes stronger enough, and we can trust ourselves to “read to write.” 🙂

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  5. christicorbett

    I got a Kindle for Christmas and it has changed the way I view books. While I’ll always be a lover of “real” books, paper ones you can hold and flip through and dog ear the pages, I’m also really enjoying my Kindle, and have read more this past month than I did for the last few months combined.

    Now my nightstand is covered with my TBR stack, and my Kindle has its own TBR stack inside 🙂

    Great post!

    Christi Corbett

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  6. DM

    I still read, even when I’m writing. I just love getting lost in a story, but I don’t read as much as I used to. Movies – it depends what they are. Music is a big part of my life still and I try to make time everyday for it. But as you so well said, time is what we make of it. Great post.

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    • Donna, it doesn’t surprise me that your first and always love is music. It is so intune with the true poet. 🙂

      Not writing as much as we used to, can become the mantra of many writers, at least at the beginnig. At the end of the day, we all find the right mix.

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  7. Meredith Conner

    Reading and movies both inspire me and always help my writing. I find myself thinking of different ways to express my characters in my books to show more emotion, more conflict and more depth.
    Great Post!

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  8. Like you, Florence, I stopped reading when I began writing. I was afraid I’d be influenced by others’ work. It took me time to realize that each writer has a unique voice and way of telling a story.

    When I came across the wise counsel from published authors and publishing professionals that said it’s important to read so we can know what’s out there and what it being purchased, I took it to heart and began reading again. Doing so enabled me to learn from other writers who were further along in their journeys than I am. I continue to read others’ books and learn from them to this day.

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    • I’ve heard so many writers tell me the same, Keli. Something about those first baby steps that make us fearful we will lose ourselves.

      I know you are an avid reader now, because you post some of the greatest books lists of my blog friends. Each genre, whether it is romance, mystery or other types of fiction have found their way to my TBR read list from fantasy and YA bloggers to your delightful romance blog 🙂

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  9. Hey Florence,
    Reading comforts me and I’ve found fewer calories are involved. This is good. In terms of music and movies, I don’t watch much television or see many movies, but do like music of all types. Listening to music while I write doesn’t work for me as I even put ear plugs in to write (all the better to hear the voices in my head). Your blogs always juxtapose a variety of thoughts in such an interesting way that I can imagine your plots being intricate and interesting. I’m so looking forward to reading your published work one day.

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    • Reading comforts, inspires and eluminates, Liz. All those emotions, not to mention great plot and character development lessons, we get from the wonderful books we read.

      Thanks for the compliment, this year I trust someone out there in pub-land will agree 🙂

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  10. I often pick up the voice of writers in my own writing, so I have to be careful not to read authors with really strong voices. Jenny Crusie immediately comes to mind. If I’m reading one of Jenny’s books, I don’t write, otherwise I feel like I sound exactly like her.

    Movies, OTOH, are pure enjoyment for me. I generally get so involved in the watching, I forget to notice plot points, etc.

    I wish I could see a movie in my head while I’m writing, like you do, Florence. Wow, I’ll be you do amazing settings, huh? Oh how I envy your ability. 🙂 Generally, all I see in my head is words. Dialogue. People talking. Chatter, chatter, chatter. 🙂

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    • Sheila, all I can say is that if you hear chatter, it must be grand 🙂

      It’s difficult not to pick up some of the voices we hear, but I generally mix it up book wise and with movies and music also, so I don’t get too influenced.

      Keep chatting … I love it 🙂

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  11. I don’t worry about being influenced by my reading, because I’m not doing enough of it! I used to think nothing of lounging around all afternoon reading, especially when I was single. I still want to read like that, for pure enjoyment.

    But now that I’m writing and blogging, I find that I place an agenda on reading and even movies. I wish that wasn’t the case, and vow to take a well-loved book to the park one Saturday afternoon and shut out everything else!

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  12. I’m totally in agreement on the reading. It certainly makes creating much easier for me. I’m not much into movies, that I’ll admit, but sometimes certain types of music sends me hurrying for a piece of paper to jot down an idea.

    When I first started writing I didn’t understand the importance of reading, especially reading in the genre that we are writing. All the books I read at that time were non-fiction and, for me, seems to be the most difficult to write. I’ve done a few short pieces but that’s about it. Once I began reading fiction I understood why we are told how very important it is.

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    • Laura, I think it’s vital that we read in our genre and also stretch our wings to as many places out their as we can. Books are a great way to travel … inexpensive, hassle free and easy to pack 🙂

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  13. Music, photography, reading all fuel my ideas for books, scenes, plot lines, setting. Great essay with this post. Thank you.

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  14. I am so with you…CANNOT keep my mind in a story world if I’m not immersed in stories of all kinds, including music.

    Interesting side note: the movies I’ve seen lately based on books have been total bombs.

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  15. All 3 of these things inspire me a great deal in my writing. Whether it’s the words in a song or the protagonist in a story. Like you, I have sometimes sacrificed my love for books in my need to feel like I am accomplishing something with my writing, but books are where I find. It only inspiration, but also motivation. To picture my words, my stories within the pages of a book that someone else might be finding a nugget of inspiration is enough to drive me to listen to a song while watching a movie and holding/reading a great book! Such a great post…I am feelings like I should go write something now:)!

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