For Friday, January 8, 2016:
“Though the ability to write well is partly a gift – like the ability to play basketball, or to outguess the stock market – writing ability is mainly a product of good teaching supported by a deep-down love of writing.”
John Gardner, THE ART OF FICTION (via a Chris Bohjalian essay reblogged here a few days ago)
And that ‘deep-down love of writing’ comes about, in my opinion and experience, from an equal devotion to reading. I submit, then, that the reading must come first. Or, as in my case, being read to as a child — not only age-appropriate books and stories, but occasional age-stretching literature as well — every day and every night.
Just as important: I saw my parents reading constantly. They read everything – books (fiction and non-fiction), newspapers, magazines, journals. They bought books, they went to the library, they and friends would borrow each other’s books back and forth, they would talk about books and other things they read with friends and family. Books were clearly important to and for my parents – my whole family, on both sides – so it was natural for me to follow their example.
Of course, I am showing my age a little bit here. Television was just coming into its own as I grew into reading, so I didn’t have the technological distractions today’s young people do. (This worries me, I must say, but I’ve written about this subject elsewhere in a blog post here, and I won’t go on about it again today.)
Still, even as that new thing of TV developed and improved – I do remember how excited we all were when my parents could finally afford a color set – I usually chose to read a book over watching TV. And my parents encouraged my sister and me to join up with school-age clubs like Scholastic Books, even when it stretched their own budget. The thrill of the days our books would come in is something I will never forget!
So I submit that a love of and for writing is predicated on a love of and for reading. I know how lucky I was, how lucky I felt at the time, that my parents instilled that love in me. I am beyond grateful for the teachers in my life who deepened my love of writing, but I couldn’t have gotten to that point without my parents’ example and the blessing of their active participation in my reading life.