How much do you read?

If there’s one dream I have as a writer, it’s being able to write full-time for a living. I’d love nothing more than to be able to write fiction, be a journalist, blog and write columns and essays full-time without the need for a second job.

Many successful writers, when asked the secret to their success of writing for a living, will tell you that any successful writer must do two things daily: read and write. Some writers will spend several hours churning out thousands of words of fiction, blogs, columns, essays, journals before settling down later in the day with some great books. And perhaps a few magazines.

I am envious of those who can maintain a heavy book-reading workload. Stephen King in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft describes himself as a slow reader but somehow manages to read scores of books annually. Wow. It makes you wonder what he considers to be a fast reader. Maybe, perhaps he had in mind the older brother of one of my friends. Andy told a reporter once that his brother, Peter, could read about seven books per week.

Not per year or per month. Per week.

I am in awe and honestly wish I were like these people. One of my goals in life, both as a writer and as someone who wants to learn about the world, is to become someone who’s “well read”.

So far in the past year I’ve read four books that I can remember. One was a biography on Jim Morrison, another was Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing while two were novels by science fiction writer Ben Bova. I am currently finishing up Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot and plan next to read a collection of Bova’s short stories. After that, who knows? Whatever catches my fancy.

It is, of course, best to discipline yourself as a writer to read daily. By reading, you get an idea of what flows, what works and what doesn’t flow and what doesn’t work. Sometimes terrible prose can not only teach you how not to write, but it can also inspire you (“Hey, if this person can get published, so can I!”).

Perhaps this evening, when I get done blogging, I’ll do a little reading. Besides the two books I have checked out at the library, I have more than 100 books at home that I have yet to read.

Richard Zowie is a writer. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

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Poem: Who are they to judge?

Poetry is not my strong suit, but I like to dabble into it. Quentin Tarantino once said you can’t write poetry with a computer; the poem below was written earlier today with pen and paper (with a few modifications as I type them in now). Read and tell me what you think. I promise this–if you don’t like it, you won’t hurt my feelings. Honest.

Who are they to judge?

“This movie’s bad,” Roger says

“This book’s bad,” The Times says

“This person cahn’t sing,” says the shooter of cripples

If there are no absolutes

No right or wrong

No good or bad

No tasteful or distasteful

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Who are Roger, the newspaper and Simon to judge?

Richard Zowie is a writer, blogger, columnist, journalist. Post comments here or drop him a line at richardzowie@gmail.com.

Is a story really ever finished?

One famous musician said they could work on an album forever but that at some point you have to let it go to live its own life.

The same, no doubt, rings true for writing.

I have many short stories I’m working on, both in the rough draft and final draft phases, along with a novel I’m trying to finish the rough draft on. It’s amazing how you can look at a piece of fiction work, think you have something brilliant and return to it a year later and think of all the edits that still need to be done on it. Maybe this comma needs to be deleted, this dialogue needs to be modified or this scene needs to be cut completely.

If George Orwell were alive today, I wonder if he’d look at his books Animal Farm, 1984 and A Clergyman’s Daughter and be tempted to make any changes to them.

Richard Zowie’s been writing professionally since 2000. Post comments below or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.