Thursday, June 23, 2011

As I am Slowly Buried: My Take on Professional Reading

What a Writer NeedsOf late, busy hasn't been a word that would adequately describe my life. After my wedding, I vaguely expected that my life would become simpler, more relaxing, more day by day. It hasn't though. I suppose in some way I should be thankful for this; after all, life doesn't always dish you what you want, but it is sure to give you what need. What I need right now is focus. Plain and simple. I need my mind to drawn away from everything else so that I can do what I need to do, finish reading What a Writer Needs by Ralph Fletcher.

It's for a course I'm taking, and though I've had an opportunity to finish it for years before this course required it, I've never been able to do it. I'm not a great reader of professional books. In fact, I am a horrifyingly bad reader of professional books. I do read them, as should anyone who has a respect for their profession, but I read disjointedly. I read without consistency. I take month or even year-long breaks between chapters. I have been known to read some professional books so slowly that by the time I finish a new edition has been published. I read about thirty of them at once, so many that afterwards I have little to recollection of which one said what about what, not that I'm the type to quote an author after the fact. I'm the type that will say, "I remember reading somewhere that…" because I have no idea which book something came out of. I just know that it was somewhere in some book, and that's good enough for me.

So I've been reading this, cover to cover, and I have to say that I'm encouraged by how well it's going. Even though I've never been great at finishing them, I love Ralph Fletcher's books. He's one of the authors whose books I am somewhere in the collective middle of. I've started every book of his I've ever seen, though not always at the beginning, and I've read at least a couple of chapters that I thought would be useful. I've done the same thing to a number of other authors of such books: Katie Wood Ray, Donald Graves, Donald Murray, Lucy Calkins, Barry Lane, Rob Marzano, and Charlotte Danielson all come to mind. I don't mean it as an affront to these people. I know that they are all incredibly talented writers. They write interesting, engaging work. It's just that I can only remain interested and engaged in a single professional text for maybe an hour before my mind is pleading with me for something light-hearted and irreverently stupid.

You could blame it on immaturity or label it as the consequence of an underdeveloped mind, but I just think of it as my own personal coping mechanism, my way of preventing brain overload. After all, I read somewhere that you shouldn't take life too seriously. No one gets out alive.

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