Thursday, January 17, 2013

Reading vs Writing

Debating my stance as a writer lately...not whether or not I am one, there's no doubt writing is in my DNA, but rather how much or what kind of a writer I am. Before the love of writing came the love of books, and I have spent my literary life debating which is more important to me...because spending more time in one activity takes away from the other. Being a teacher, mother of three kids, and an active member of two communities (one in which I live and one in which I teach), both hobbies cannot garner equal playing time. I always feel the need to choose, which seems silly, because the two activities go hand in hand. I think the need to settle on a choice activity is because I can then not feel guilty when I'm spending more time doing one over the other.

Two things happened this past week that helped me settle into "who I am" in my reader vs writer debate. I went to Barnes and Noble with my 11-year-old daughter to spend our gift cards. We had a good amount between us, plus an extra teacher discount, which made our cards worth more. We spent a good two, almost three, hours looking at books, reading sections aloud, and drinking fancy coffee. When we had made our purchases and headed back to the cafe for more coffee, I sat down with my daughter and said, "I love my students and my job, but if I were to do anything else, I'd want to come here every day and shelf books and help people pick them out and find them. I would know this store like the back of my hand." Then a student of mine who works there was going on break, so I showed her the selections I had made for my classroom (she would be the first to read them , I knew).

Soon after the man sitting a few seats down from us asked, "Do you know any good authors for teens?" I laughed and asked, "Do you have something to write with?" He did and he already had a title to ask about. He was buying for his niece, trying to inspire a love of reading in her, but didn't want any material that crossed the line, so to speak. The title he had was a John Green book and I gave him Green's name and more of his books to look for. He asked for another author and I gave him the "Wake" trilogy by Lisa McMann (I actually had one of her newer books in my bag at that moment). He named a few that he had gathered from various sources and I told him the premise of each, because he was trying to avoid certain topics, and these were iffy-topic titles he mentioned. He thanked me and said he didn't want to take up too much of my time. Honestly, I was ready to march him off to the YA section and fill his arms with books!

Of course, the highlight of my day was the time with my daughter. It was so relaxed and we had so much fun just looking through books and talking. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't titillated by my conversation with the guy. Opening a whole new world (sorry Aladdin, but it's found in books) to someone...making connections...sharing something I love and know is beneficial...I was in my glory. And the fact that I had just stated this desire to share and then have him ask? I don't believe in coincidence!

The second event was a post I read on a writing friend's blog - Carolynn...with 2Ns. She talked about where she stands as a writer and how she feels ok about it. It forced me to truly debate with myself. What kind of writer am I? I am much, much happier reading a book than writing. And when I do write, it is usually short pieces: blog posts, articles or essays. Short, but complete and satisfying. Carolynn's post made me debate this and come to an understanding with myself.

Reading wins. I cannot live without books (that's Thomas Jefferson by the way and I have two of the exact plaque pictured above). And I know some may think, "Why choose?" What can I say? When I'm writing, I want to be reading and when I'm reading, I want to read more. It's not to say I give up on writing or that my writing mode won't change. I'm in an extremely busy season of my life and in a matter of years it will change again. My WIP will be something I continue to work with because I believe in my mother's story and I believe I am to write it. That has not changed at all. But I will not feel guilty when I choose reading over writing. The writing will come in its time and until then I have my books.

What kind of strange battles do you fight with yourself?


  1. This was really interesting. I can honestly say that I "heard" the change in your voice (in my head) when you started talking to the man :) I think jeff has somewhat similar conflicts about drawing vs. writing.

    I have all sorts of conflicts. Taking photos vs. looking at them. Looking at "beautiful" things (think pinterest) vs. actually creating them. I LOVE looking at 'beautiful' things...I love being inspired!!!

    No matter what, I have discovered that I have a drive (?) ... a NEED to create... often times the everyday takes up all the hours of the day... and there is a change in me... it changes my personality, honestly my overall being. If I put everything else aside (at least for an afternoon or evening), and take a day or two (or so) and successfully create something (usually photographically or sewing are the best remedies) everything is more right in my world...its like the sun has come out from behind the clouds.

    I have to say this is one of the things that I love most about Jeff, that he completely understands. I once was talking about it to a friend who was married to a non-creative -- he husband couldn't understand the need at all. I am so blessed to be married to jeff (for so many reasons)

    It seems like if I can't create, I might as well just roll over.

  2. (and...isnt't awesome spending time sharing what you love with your kids?)

    1. It is so awesome to share what you love with your kids. And I agree,it is much easier being married to someone who either understands and/or cares. Brandon has a different skill set, but he's always been understanding of my reading/writing obsession. He's even joined in here and there in some book related things! And of course, I own Denver Broncos clothing, so it's all even.

  3. My daughters are in their twenties and since they were little girls one of our greatest joys...haunting the aisles of Barnes and Noble. Our store closed a year or so ago and now it’s BAM Books A Million. I just love bookstores with my daughters; we wander free, meet up, talk books and wander free again. Fragrance of books and fancy coffee with my kids; life doesn’t get much better than that.
    Thanks for the mention BTW.
    My editor just asked for more ink. She likes me; she really, really likes me. I can feel my head swelling as I write.

    1. Thank you for the thought provoking post. And how exciting to have a happy editor! That's awesome! What's not to like?!

  4. I had to make this choice a couple of years ago, only I went in the opposite direction to become a writer. I still read---a lot, by most people's standards---but I don't get the same enjoyment from books these days because I'm reading critically.

    I'm glad to see someone giving a reader's devotion the respect it deserves. Everyone is so worried about writing and publishing, but where would we be without thoughtful, discerning readers to ignite the next generation with a love of books? Yesterday my son came home from school with a book already open in his hands---he'd walked from the bus stop that way because he couldn't wait to see what happened next. I could have cried, it was such a beautiful sight.

    You're doing the world a great service, Jennine. Never doubt it.

    1. Oh Averil, I just experienced the same with my son yesterday! Did you read my post after this one? He came home with a Wimpy Kid book and when he found out his sister had the whole set he carried around all seven hardcovers all night long, even when he went to play the Wii. My husband and I are going to Pittsburgh for the weekend and after I wrote the post after this one, he packed all seven books to take to grandma's. I told him he wouldn't be able to read all of them, grandma had plans, maybe just the first two. He stalled a little and then said he wanted to show them to grandma. Who am I to argue? I have at least two extra books and my Kindle app on my iPad everywhere I go! And like you, I could've cried. I was so happy!

      And thanks for the boost of confidence about my decision. I had struggled with it a long time and finally realized I didn't really struggle much when I was reading.

    2. And you know what, I really think we are born with some innate abilities. I read voraciously and yet don't quite have the knack of critical reading. I enjoy the story, the discussion, learning life lessons, and connecting all the pieces of knowledge I gain from reading widely...maybe it's more a lack of confidence in my critical reading abilities than anything. That's a post for another day, after I've fought with myself over it.