Happy Sunday, everyone!
Every Wednesday, blogging buddy Aaron over at The Confusing Middle posts a “Sunday Scribblings” prompt for other bloggers to ponder and respond to on the following Sunday. If you’re a blogger looking for more inspiration, I highly recommend jumping in and joining in on the fun!
This week’s prompt is: Farm!
I’ll admit that I struggled a bit to come up with something to write for this prompt. While I live in southern New Jersey and am legitimately surrounded by farms, I just don’t have many stories related to them. Okay, I do have a couple, but I’ve already posted about yoga that I did at a farm and the largest corn maze I’ve ever done.
Editor Josh and I brainstormed for a bit, but the only thing that we could come up with was how I got into reading, a story that is (really only tangentially) related to the book Animal Farm.
I do want to point out here that it literally pains me to reference two different “mandatory school reading” books two weeks in a row after having mentioned The Great Gatsby last week (although I actually didn’t have to read Animal Farm in school). Seriously, if I write about James Joyce next week, I’m going to throw my computer out a window and swear to never write again. That’s a promise.
Aaron, the prompt next week cannot be about Dublin and/or books that put me to sleep in high school!
I’m not sure about any of you, but I feel like in every writing community, there is this idea that one cannot be a writer without also being a reader. I take issue with this primarily because I hate the idea of telling someone that they cannot be something that they want to be. I recognize that not all careers are possible for everyone, but hobbies shouldn’t really be gatekept (past tense of “gatekeep”…is it a word? Not sure, but we’re going with it) in my opinion.
As someone who is a writer because I love expressing myself using words and am a total grammar nerd, I’m not sure why reading would be necessary. I understand gathering vocabulary and turns-of-phrase from reading, but I would argue that I’ve probably learned just as many of those by watching sitcoms that I love.
Seriously, I learned the phrase “That tracks” from How I Met Your Mother, understood what it meant from context, then added it to my everyday lexicon. I’ve learned enough words and grammar rules in English and foreign language classes that I think anyone can become a passable writer with those tools alone.
But in reality, I think that I take offense to this idea that one must read to write because I wasn’t a big reader as a kid. While I’ve pretty much always been a writer, I did not get into reading until later in life. As a young person, my parents read various things to me, from poetry books by Shel Silverstein to the Sunday comics to Dr. Seuss to Disney stories, and I enjoyed this immensely, but I didn’t want to read myself in my spare time. It just wasn’t something that I enjoyed. I liked playing all sorts of computer games, watching TV, and hanging out with my friends, but I just couldn’t get into sitting still and reading words written on a page.
My mom, an avid reader herself, was incredibly discouraged about the fact that I didn’t like to read. She started assigning me summer reading long before school did. This, of course, is where Animal Farm comes in. Like I said at the beginning, I didn’t actually have to read this book for school, my mom just gave it to me as mandatory summer reading in middle school. To be honest, it didn’t hold young Renata’s interest very well. Like all of the other books that she had me read (From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler as well as various Star Wars books that she loved), I reported back that I finished the book but didn’t absorb much because I couldn’t get into it. Reading just wasn’t going to be for me, and that was going to have to be okay. And for the longest time, that was that.
Then, I found YA romance. And the rest, as they say, is history.
I gobbled up book after book, reading throughout every recess and into long hours of the night. I would sit in class and read whenever there was downtime. Actually, when they took the “Most Likely to Succeed” superlative picture for our middle school yearbook, they couldn’t get my nose out of my book, so they slapped a mortarboard on my head, stood me next to the other person with that superlative, and called it a day. You can see me reading that book in the yearbook picture because I just couldn’t put it down!
I never knew books could be so relatable and exciting until I started reading YA romance. My life wasn’t exactly dull as a young person, but these books made my heart race. Teenagers getting into trouble and falling in love (something my strict 4.0 GPA, bright future, and less-than-stellar looks would never allow). They were amazing!
Throughout high school, it was more of the same. I always had a book on me, and trips to Barnes & Noble were dangerously expensive affairs. When I went off to college, I admittedly struggled to read as much, but I still enjoyed trips to the local bookstore and special ordered some of my favorites from high school (The Bell Jar, A Separate Peace, and Slaughterhouse Five if you’re curious!). I needed something familiar and stable, and Sylvia Plath, John Knowles, and Kurt Vonnegut could give me that.
Nowadays, I still love reading, but getting emotionally invested in a book is so heavy for me that I often put off reading for months on end. Even then, I pretty much can’t get fully into anything other than romance novels. If there’s a personal development book that I want to read (How to Be Everything and Big Magic have been sitting on my shelf half-read for about 4 months now), I have to read it in chunks while regularly cleansing my palate with a romance novel. As cliché as it is, my “tbr” pile just keeps growing with various different fun and quirky love stories that I start at longingly while promising to “get to them eventually.”
After my tumultuous beginning with books, I truly believe that everyone has the potential to enjoy reading if they want to, they just have to find their genre. That being said, though, they can still be a writer even if they don’t read! Just like a pig can take over a farm by controlling all of the other animals. That is what happens in Animal Farm, right?