Today, as is my usual pattern on Thursdays, I went to the local YMCA for a Nia class. Now, sometimes I take the class, and sometimes I teach it; today was the latter. An hour later, I left the dance studio not by walking, but by FLYING. I was on such an endorphin high. I bounced in my car seat as I listened to the radio on the way home, and burbled happily about various things to my working-at-home husband before I came down to my office, and plowed through my emails.
Why am I telling you this, you may ask? Is it just to make you envy my awesome good mood? Hell no! Would I do that to you?
I’m bringing it up because I think reading can do the same thing for writers. Finishing a great book that gets your brain firing on all cylinders can be a fantastic jump start for your own work.
There’s many reasons why I suggest serious writers who want to be published authors should read a lot, but this is another great reason — it’s inspiring! Sure, sometimes you finish a book and think, “Well, I can do better,” and that’s one kind of inspiration. But this is the more positive kind, and so, I like it better. What can I say — I’m an optimist!
Finishing a novel where you fall in love with the romantic hero can and should make you want to get back to your computer, to your own romantic lead. Is he as drool-worthy, heart-thumpingly interesting? If not, how can you bring him up to the high standard set by your recent read? Is your heroine as smart, as cunning, as cluelessly oblivious… until she isn’t? Read other author’s books to improve your own!
I just finished reading Welcome to Bordertown, the anthology edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner, and I loved it. Rexroth got rather annoyed with me — I kept interrupting his own reading to read him something aloud, or just to sob quietly in his office. Halfway through the last story, everyone was so happy I wanted to stop reading, so they would stay that way. Will your characters inspire a reader to do the same? To want to keep them safe?
What books have you read that have produced that endorphin high for you as a writer? Share your faves in the comments!
13 thoughts on “Endorphin High”
Anything by Donna Gillespie gives me that high. Her writing is so beautiful that it leaves me all warm and fuzzy inside and ready to tackle my own writing and make it that shiny (plus, that woman can write a sex scene!).
I also learned so much reading The Hunger Games trilogy that while I didn't leave the book feeling warm and fuzzy, I did leave it with a great sense of how to kick my own writing up a notch.
Terry Pratchett's Discworld books always leave me with a happy feeling. He's able to make me okay with the bad things in the world like no other author, possibly because he makes me cackle like a loon in public places…
I recently read Savvy, by Ingrid Law, and felt that way. I laughed, cried, and walked away a better writer. My book is very different–faster, crazier, etc–but Savvy helped me reach for the soul of each character and trick it out onto the page where the reader can see it.
Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff (which comes out in September) was one of those books that has remained with me since I read it and made me want to refine my craft. Same with Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma and The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson.
Jenny Han's Shug inspired me to continue to hone my MG voice to one day be as utterly pitch perfect as hers!
Inspiration has been a topic of discussion with my writing friends lately, too. I thought two bits of advice we came up with were particularly helpful.
First, for my friend Maria Nolletti Ross–a paper saver: Stack all those pages of text, comments, revises, etc., and just look at the pile they make. This part is important–if she read, she'd critique, and that's not the point. I can name a thousand people who have said they plan to write something some day and haven't filled the first blank page. But Maria can look at her GIANT stack and know, "I wrote that!" No matter how she's feeling, that stack is proof that she's a WRITER.
Second, for a fellow Sisuka who had fallen into a confidence funk: Go back and read your own work. I've done this a couple of times, too, when I was feeling like I'm kidding myself with this writing thing. Though there are always some wince-worthy sentences or scenes, often there are totally awesome ones! I don't let myself get all cocky and jacked on my own stuff, but it does help to acknowledge that I've had as many good moments on the page as bad ones. And every day I'm getting better at weeding out the bad ones. Ie, it can help to inspire yourself by reading the work you did when you were inspired.
Also, THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE by Jacqueline Kelly and THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS by John Connolly. Brilliance on paper!
Okay, I'm going to admit this on the internet against my better judgement. I read quotes by Dolly Parton. She cracks me up and reminds me not to take life or myself too seriously. I have quotes by her on sticky notes all over my desk. My favorite is "If you don't like the road your on, start paving another one."
As far as books are concerned, I just read THE HELP and I am still running around saying "Law" instead of "Lord" – I know a book sticks with me when I start talking like it. And a really good book like that inspires me to write better.
Tamora Pierce's WILD MAGIC series definitely inspires me, but that could be because of the huge book crush I have on Numair. I also love Patricia Wrede's MAIRELON THE MAGICIAN and MAGICIAN'S WARD. I always finish those books in such a good mood, and read them whenever I need a quick pick-me-up. 🙂
My latest endorphin high from fiction actually came from a play. On Tuesday I saw Catherine Tate and David Tennant as Beatrice and Benedick in the new production of "Much ado about nothing". As a play I sort of always thought Much Ado was sort of stupid compared to some of the smarter Shakespeare comedies but this honesly might have been the best Theatre production I've ever seen in London. Apart from the brilliant staging and the brilliant acting, the chemistry between the two characters was just so electric that I came home thinking "I MUST write a Benedick IMMEDIATELY!"
AND it was a high that came just in time because I was just coming off my high of reading "Blood Red Road" by Moira Young.
Mine would probably be OUT OF THE DUST by Karen Hesse. That one inspired me for sure.
Shannon: THE HELP was rejected 60 times before an agent signed her. http://www.more.com/kathryn-stockett-help-best-se…
Alwyn: So jealous you've already read BRR! It's in my cart for June 7.
Paper Towns by John Green did that for me recently, as well as My Most Excellent Year by Steve Klugar. I'm only midway into it, but I think Libba Bray's Beauty Queens will be giving me something to strive for
Loving all of these book recommendations! As if I needed to add to my TBR pile!