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Beth Hautala is author of Waiting For Unicorns, and The Ostrich And Other Lost Things. She lives with her husband and four children in northern Minnesota where she strives to write stories that tie heart and imagination together. 




Why We Love To Read

“We read to know we are not alone.”—C.S.Lewis

Giving voice to the reasons we love the written word, is as vast and varied as our reasons for anything, I suppose. The beautiful responses I’ve had in answer to this question over the last three weeks have been such a delight to hear, and have provided sweet inspiration as I pick up my pen every morning. —Why write if not to be read?

I’ve been thinking about doing this post for some time, but I find that my own answers to this question seem limited. I have only my own perspective to draw from. So I’ll keep my thoughts brief and let your words speak for themselves. Thank you for sharing your insights!

“I love to read because it makes me a better person. Whether I read for business or pleasure, entertainment or enlightenment, I finish a changed person somehow. What other endeavor can boast the same?!” —Carrie

“I have been reading a lot of non-fiction lately. So, I guess I like to read to learn. I also love reading with my children. It's a great family bonding time.” —Paula

“I love to read because I discover new worlds, other realities, previously un-thought ideas (by me). Reading expands me, challenges me, redefines me. It makes me become more me.” —Kassie

“Reading opens windows to the souls of the authors, stimulates creative thinking, expands horizons beyond the limited borders of personal experience resulting in the privilege of immersing in the personal experiences and brain activity of multitudes. I love to learn and wish that there were many more hours in the day and many more years in a lifetime just for the opportunity to experiencing one more facet of God's creativity as it is exposed in the writing of another of His created children.” —Linda

“Reading is many things to me. Fiction transports me into to new places with new characters to get to know. Nonfiction challenges my intellect and lifts my spirit. Life stories give me a glimpse into the lives and hearts of wonderful people from the present and the past. Words paint me pictures that go beyond what you could ever see in a photo or painting.”—Kathy

“I Love to read. It takes me far away from myself and the pain of every day existence. No worry, stress or pain can find its way into a good story. I Love fiction based on fact best, with a mystery thrown in. I work my mind to try and figure out the end before I reach it. Reading helps also to build my vocabulary, which I need to write poetry. I have all my life been drawn to the written word. I Love going into old book stores,. I smell the old leather covers, and enter into a world of long ago.” —Brenda

“I love the creativity in reading. You may say, ‘What? I thought the creativity was in the writing!’ But the words evoke images in my mind that only I can see and I find that fascinating. I treasure the way I am transported to another time and place through books. I enjoy the education I receive - learning new things and gaining perspective and understanding about things I may otherwise be unaware. I love just being in the book, the place where nothing else really exists but the words and characters and I am truly there inside the pages, in the story in my mind. I can escape my cares and worries for awhile… I love to read to my children and love that they love to “read” and to be read to. I could go on and on but these are the main reasons . . .”—Ang

“Because I love to learn! In a fictional story it's the characters, in the real world no one lets you in and lets you learn about them like you get to in a story.” —Heather

“I love to read - the why is hard. It's a little like asking why I love to breathe. In fact, it might be the same thing. More prosaically, I love to read because I love being in other worlds, wandering through other lives, hearing other voices. It makes the space I inhabit so much bigger. Infinite almost. And it makes me larger too, that within me I can contain those worlds.” —Francesca

I would love to hear additional thoughts on this! So tell me, Why do you love to read? 


Friday Five

1. Get to Work—Tips & Tricks for Writers.

Plotting in Layers. Last week I was really wrestling with some plot issues in my current work in process. My characters' motivations seemed shallow and half-hearted, certainly not enough to drive the plot, which was somehow growing a little fuzzy in my mind. I was even beginning to entertain thoughts of story dismissal, when I stumbled across Janice Hardy's Blog, The Other Side Of The Story, and in particular, her post on plotting. I've read a lot of material on plotting—developing the story background, intentions, and actions of your characters—but never anything that helped me answer some essential questions as effectively as this post did. Working on a story (novel or short story) that needs some help? Consider running it through Ms. Hardy's plotting questions. It might be the best thing you've ever done for your writing.

2. What to Read—Book Reviews and Recommendations.

What To Read Next. Ever finish a book you just adore only to find that you're hooked on the genera or the style, or the plot themes, or . . .   Me too. And it's so frustrating when you want something similar but can't find it! Like, something with magical realism, two characters who are also sisters, a touch of clean romance, and a food element—preferably cake. People just look at you a little strangely when you start listing off story elements like that. Solution: What to read next, a book title generator that allows you to select four story elements and search by preference. Want to read something beautiful, a little sad, set in a faraway place, about dogs? No problem.

3. Writing For Social Media—Blogging/Tweeting/Status Updates/And What's Worth Saying Online.

How to Grow Meaningful Traffic To Your Site/Blog. Ever wonder about the ins and outs of blog traffic and why it matters, or what to do about it? Check out Jane Friedman's post on this. Not only is it helpful and informative, but it puts some confusing concepts into easy-to-understand terms. A great piece, especially if you are a relatively new blogger, like me!

4. Media—Fun Publishing/Writing-related Videos and Music

5. Be Encouraged—Stories of Writing Success (from those who've been-there-done-that).

50 Iconic Writers Who Were Repeatedly Rejected. As a writer, it can be difficult to face rejection over and over and keep on keeping on. Believe me, I know. Good news: we are not alone! Every writer, even the best, has been rejected. Take a look at their stories and be encouraged. And keep writing.

Any of the above helpful or interesting? Share it! —Online information is only as good as the community that encourages others with what they’ve learned . . . Thanks to those who’ve taken the time to teach me a thing or two!



Illustration used with permission. (c) Howard Lyon, 2010

I’ve been thinking about the difference between discouragement and encouragement this week.  Stress and anxiety do this to me. I get a tad introspective.

No fear, I’ll not wax on too long here.

It’s pretty natural to become discouraged every once and a while, especially as an artist—writer, painter, or otherwise. The very work of a creative profession demands that we bare certain elements of ourselves for the world to alternately love or hate. Of course, that’s part of the thrill—causing a new train of though or spurring a new perspective with our own creativity.

But change never happens without struggle, and creatives—I among them—are some of the most struggling and “rejected” people on earth. We continually run up against the wall of commercialism, and often our best ideas are sacrificed on that alter so that we can continue living with luxuries. —Like, ya-know, heat, plumbing, and electricity. I write commercial copy on the side, so believe me, I know. My purist-creative bent often berates me for what feels like a sell-out, because truly, my heart’s love is fiction writing.

The protagonists in my stories tend to wrestle with discouragement on various levels as well. And yet, I’ve never written a story where the bravery of said protagonists is not tested, tried, and then revealed. Which makes me wonder if perhaps I don’t think about encouragement in a confused light. Perhaps, I confuse encouragement with support or approval.

To encourage is to impart courage—to illuminate the bravery that already exists within someone.

Writing well and writing for approval are often two different things entirely. Not always, but most of the time. When I’m writing for a paycheck alone, I need to ensure I say certain things, and avoid saying others—restaurant reviews are a classic example, especially, say, when the restaurant owner is also an advertiser in the publication you happen to be writing for. —Hate to step on advertising dollars.

When I am writing to the best of my ability, without agenda—other than to do the craft well and tell a "real” story—then I can erase the voices of my audience and listen to my protagonist—the heroine.

“Enough of this,” she says to me. “I’ve got something to do. Let me do it!”

And I will. I’ll get out of the way and let her show me how brave she is—despite rejection or any other form of discouragement she will undoubtedly face before she reaches those final two words. The End.

So, don’t be afraid. Allow the bravery you already posses, to have the upper hand in whatever battlefield of self-doubt and discouragement you might be facing. Let your own protagonists speak however loudly they may. They are surprisingly insightful. And be encouraged—as a creative, you are among friends, and I for one, believe in your victory.