Zestful Blog Post #236
If you’re a writer, you’ve got a beautiful field of resources that will take you far beyond books on technique and motivation: the work of literary innovators. Reading literature that you find fabulous / moving / amusing / iconoclastic represents your continuing education. Here’s a good practice for a professional author:
- Assemble a soft pencil, a sharpener, and a few index cards.
- Get hold of a book you’re interested in.
- Read it.
- Underline passages of special interest and make notes as you go. (You’ll find that soft graphite is easier to erase if you ever want to, doesn’t dig into the pages, and is more pleasurable to use in general.) Write in the margins and on your cards. Make little stars and ticks next to passages you find inspiring, impressive, instructive.
- If the book is wonderful, reread it, carefully.
- Make further notes, or expand on the ones you have already.
- If your book is not made of paper, use whatever digital tools you have at your disposal.
Am definitely a Blackwing fan. Sharpener hinge failed; repaired with duct tape. (Yeah, pink duct tape! Home Depot, I think.)
Your notes will be different from anybody else’s notes. Your marginalia may express enthusiasm, surprise, skepticism, or humility. You won’t remember everything about the book, or everything about your notes. But here's the thing. The very act of attending to the book this closely will feed and build your inner well of creativity, facility with words, and understanding. This is one of those things that are good to do for the sake of the thing itself. Sure, you can read a book just for kicks. But it doesn’t take much more effort to really learn from it. This is also known as scholarship. And that's all there is to it.
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