The Blank Space
As writers, we often toil over the blank space in life. In one way, this can be taken literally, as when the cursor on a blank word document stabs at us mockingly with every nonchalant momentary blink. But even more so, we often look deeper into everyday occurrences—we look for the blank space in life, the space that most others may skim through without a second thought. As though it is part of our psyche, we are always probing to find the deeper meaning in the smallest gestures and happenings (a furtive glance between a couple on the subway, or the way the last bits of sunlight radiate across the skyline before fizzling into darkness), and we search for how we can convey the meaning we find through our writing.
Writers are always thinking about writing, even when they aren’t actively or consciously doing so. Whether this is a gift or a curse, I have yet to decide, but it’s reality nonetheless, and a fact that we have to embrace in order to work to our full potential. When you see that couple on the subway and develop a whole back story as to how they came to be in the situation you have found them in, don’t shy away from your minds wandering—you may have just developed the characters for your next piece of writing. And that dazzling picture of a sunset you painted in your mind might be the perfect image that will leave your readers salivating over the beauty of your words.
So, as the diligent observer who believes writing 101 should include a complimentary pair of sunglasses for those occasions you just can’t help but stare, I send you all off into the world—observe, imagine, and create. Literature is about risks and pushing your stories as far as they can go. Embrace this! Find the extraordinary in the mundane, and allow your reader to discover a bit of that elusive blank space we inhabit.
Books to Read to Write
I’m a big advocate of the belief in order to be a good (wonderful, magnificent, superb–you pick) writer you must be an even better reader. More important than any sort of formal writing training–whether it’s schooling, workshops, seminars–is getting back to the basics. And you shouldn’t just school yourself in the genre or type of writing you prefer. No, even the most specified writer should read far and wide, anything and everything. A well written book is the most valuable tool a writer can have. Lucky for you all, I have a whole list of books I have found invaluable in my process of becoming a writer. And now, although I’ve moved about 4 times in the past 2 years (long distances, I may add) these lovely books always accompany me because they’ve become a part of me in one way or another. I call them my security books, and I now bequeath them onto you. Oh, and I hope you enjoy the lovely photo above of Jack Kerouac as much as I do. There’s just something about an antiquated black and white that makes my heart aflutter. Swoon.
- Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
- The Awakening, Kate Chopin
- The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand
- Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
- Everything That Rises Must Converge, Flannery O’Conner
- The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter, Katherine Anne Porter
- The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
- Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
- On the Road, Jack Kerouac
- Cathedral, Raymond Carver
- The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, Aimee Bender
- Drown, Junot Diaz
Now this is by all means not a comprehensive list at all. And an arguable one at that, but these are some of the pinnacle books in my young reading career and I highly suggest taking a good look at any you’ve yet to read. And I would also love love LOVE if you commented with any books you’ve found influential. Happy reading!