Years ago, I was in a writing workshop led by my dear friend, Mette Ivie Harrison. She was discussing how many books she wrote before she sold one. I can’t remember the number. It was something like twenty. And then she spoke about something I never forget. Mette talked about how she consumes so many stories, so many idea, so many books. She’s always reading, sucking up all that inspiration like fuel. And she thinks all those ideas and plots and characters get churned around in her head, all mixed up and smooshed together and she spits them back out into a new form, her stories.
Neil Gaiman said, “Read. Read anything. Read the things they say are good for you, and the things they claim are junk. You’ll find what you need to find. Just read.”
“If you want to be a writer,” said Stephen King, “you must do two things above all others: read a lot, and write a lot.”
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, this idea that we as writers need to read. We need this fuel to create our own stories. Wow! An excuse to buy more books and spend loads of time curled up in my pajamas reading? I love that this need to read is part of our job!
I also love that writing fuel can be found in so many other places.
“Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows,. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work, (and theft) will be authentic.”
My brilliant friend, Elaine Vickers, is so good at this. Last year, as my parents were taking Elaine and I to the Las Vegas airport my mom was sharing stories about growing up in Star Valley, Wyoming.
While waiting for the plane, Elaine mentioned how much she loved one of the stories and how she thought it would be a great moment in a story. Oh! I hadn’t even thought of that. But since then, when people have told stories, I’ve thought more about this, about the possibility of using these small moments of inspiration in my stories.
So, yes, we need to read, read, READ! We need to suck up and consume all the stories and ideas we can. But don’t stop there. Be open to finding writing fuel everywhere you can. Go to art shows, travel, let your interests guide you to new and exciting ideas. And find your writing fuel!
Erin Shakespear writes silly pictures books and middle grade fantasy full of quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures. After all, they say, “Write what you know.” And with six kids, her days are full of…quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures.