If I’m ghosting for a week, writing articles about the side effects of antiquated amitriptyline or the evolution of human teeth, I find it nearly impossible to settle into writing a short story or even a simple journal entry. Conversely, if I’m on a sleepless reading jag, chest-deep in poetic prose and an old, revered story, I have difficulty resurfacing in the cognitive vicinity of my day job (nonfiction ghostwriting). Somehow, the latter feels like that tight pair of jeans I keep in the bottom drawer (just in case I’m ever sixteen again).
It took years for me to realize where I was going wrong. I put myself on a Ginkgo and B-12 regimen. I meditated. I pondered the possibility that I might be losing my mind; that my mo-jo was no-go. So I took myself from first person to third person point of view. Like an allergy sufferer on the verge of a diagnosis, I chronicled everything I ingested, both physical and psychological. The ah-ah soon followed.
I wasn’t reading what I was writing (or wanted to write). My two loves were rolling down a steep slope, in a death grip, too busy clawing at each other to grasp onto anything solid.
Writers are readers. We imitate. We emulate. We are inspired by those who have gone before us as much as athletes, actors, and anthropologists are. Basketball players don’t study the locomotion of cross-country runners; they memorize the techniques and chew on the stats of their personal hoop heroes. In the same way, it benefits writers to read the type of prose that they aspire to (or that they’re currently working on).
Read what you want to write and you’ll learn to write what they want to read. Allow your favorite authors to speak to you. The material will seep into your soul, boil and bubble, and finally find its way out…through your pen.