2.18.2005

Harley Stroh Learns to Read
For the last 5 years or so I've had a hard time going to bookstores, unless it was to buy a book as a present for someone else. If I was shopping for myself --- even browsing --- I would go nuts within 5 minutes and have to leave the store.

It usually began with the first page of a book. I'd pick up random book X, read the first page, and be so utterly disgusted that my own sense of failure would trigger a mental breakdown of sorts.

You've seen me write it before: there is a LOT of terrible writing be published out there. The fact that I wasn't one of those terrible writers drove me crazy in a very tangible way.

This goes contrary to all the advice offered by the published folks. As writers, we are supposed to read like we breath. But if you had asked me who my favorite author was, I couldn't have given you an answer.

It wasn't that I didn't like to read. I love to read and always will. It was that my own failures as a writer made it impossible for me to enjoy another author's work.

Talk about self-defeating cycle.

A strange thing happened last week. I stopped into a bookstore, looking to kill time before I picked up H from the airport. While I was there I picked up two new titles. One of them isn't half bad.

I've begun to read again, and it corresponds directly to the NIM stories.

Now, to be clear, these stories aren't great. But they are mine, for better or worse, and you have all been very kind to them. And having my lousy writing out there, along with all rest, has given me a sense of peace.

I don't need to hustle ever spare moment of the day. Or rather, I still need to hustle every moment of the day, but I don't have to feel the pressure of "publish or perish."

It's nice, having the freedom to open myself to other writers again. It's nice to be able to let go of a little of my "cornered-badger" mentality.

Part III of NIM is due out today, probably sometime around midnight. :) I'm looking forward to reading it, just to see how it presents. But between now and then I'm going to read someone else's work, and hopefully learn something about writing ...

...because we all know there's a ton of lousy fiction out there. And tonight, some of it is mine.

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