For as long as I can remember, I have loved reading, books, and libraries. I have incredibly fond memories of the public library in my hometown. I can easily visualize myself in the children's section, choosing my own books, or sitting at a table in the adult section, working on a school project. For the last twelve years, I've always been a member of at least one book club; the one I joined when I moved to Rhode Island over five years ago has supplied many of my best friends here, as well as some good reading and a lot of wine and cheese. While I've always enjoyed reading, I have had more time to devote to it recently. For the first time in ages, I watch very few TV shows and will almost always choose to read a book over watching TV.
As I was reading Anna Quindlen's new memoir Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake over our recent vacation, I decided I have what can best be called a "writer crush" on Anna Quindlen. Every time I read her work, I feel like she has gotten inside my head and used her talent to articulate my thoughts. Her words are what I want to say but don't have the talent to communicate.
As I contemplated how weird it is to have a writer's crush at all, I admitted to myself that it fits me. I tend to admire most those who excel in creative pursuits, perhaps because I derive such joy from other people's work but know I'll never paint a beautiful picture, write an amazing song, play an instrument with such talent, or dance with any grace. While I deeply admire artists and musicians, writers are my rock stars. Those who can formulate a great story and tell it in a compelling fashion move me. I love a great plot. I adore dialogue that sounds real. And I can read and re-read a single sentence just to admire its structure and beauty.
Until I started this blog, I never wrote anything other than a letter that wasn't for a teacher or client. I never really wanted to. I have found, however, that I really enjoy the challenge of organizing and communicating my thoughts. I enjoy the comments and feedback when I share something that makes someone think or laugh or commiserate. I hope that, with more practice, my writing is improving; that was my original goal in starting the blog. While my true love of the written word is fiction, I don't harbor a novel in a desk drawer or even in my head. I find the whole idea of creating characters, plot, and dialogue frightening, which probably is another reason I worship those who can do it well. At least for now, I'm happy with the simple essay. I'll never be a rock star, but I can still practice the craft.
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As an aside, if you've never read any Anna Quindlen but you share my love of reading, you must stop what you're doing right now to buy or borrow a copy of her How Reading Changed My Life. If you are an avid reader who shares your love of books with your children, you must read her 1991 New York Times opinion piece "Enough Bookshelves," which you can find here. I read it often. The following excerpt is one of those that perfectly articulates my sentiments:
"If being a parent consists often of passing along chunks of ourselves to unwitting -- often unwilling -- recipients, then books are, for me, one of the simplest and most sure-fire ways of doing that. I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves."