Living that Bookish Life

Someone asked me on Goodreads how I got into reading and writing, and I felt like blogging my answer.

So how did I get started in this bookish life, hmm? I’d say my parents are the guilty parties here. They both were readers.

My mom took me and my siblings down to the public library for books since we were quite little, and we had a family reading club for years. My dad would put up a new calendar in the kitchen each month where we’d write our initials down every time we finished a book, and a running total for each family member was at the bottom of the calendar.

Every time one of us kids finished ten books, we’d get some sort of little prize, but when it came down to it, it wasn’t about the prizes. Even when the reading club eventually phased out, we kept on reading. My uncle once joked that he’d never seen kids who were so excited to get books for Christmas!

As for my writing, if I had to pinpoint a time when I got started, it was when I was eight years old. I had to write a story for school, using specific spelling words, and my dad seemed to think the story was rather good. (He kept the story–still has it, in fact.)

I’ve been writing stories ever since. I just put book covers on them now. 🙂

 

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The Downside to Becoming a Better Writer

Yes, I absolutely believe in striving to become better at what you do! When it comes to writing, it seems I’ve always heard a lot about authors continually working to improve their craft, no matter how long they’ve been in the game.

However, before I was published, I didn’t hear much about how it actually feels when you, as a published author, do improve. When you’ve learned more, and you’ve lived more. When your passion and style has hit a stride on a whole ‘nother level (ahhh, yes!)—and then you think about or look back at your earlier, published work…and see all the things you could’ve done differently. (Ahhh…oh?)

Yup. What was once my absolute best work, years ago, is now years behind where I am today as a writer. And as a person. When you believe in all of your work, you can’t just leave the older stuff high and dry like it doesn’t matter anymore. It does matter. Still, as you promote an older book of yours, you may be thinking, “But please, dear readers, particularly any brand new dear readers: if you should notice my weaknesses here, do be so kind as not to prejudge all of my other writing, based on this.”

If only an author’s earlier material could all magically revise itself as the author continues to publish better and better work.

Now, lest anyone should think, “Oh. So this is her way of confessing that her older books aren’t as great as she thought they were, so I won’t waste my time reading them”—no. That’s not what I’m getting at. While I may be improving as a writer and as a human being, I’ve never been an idiot. 😀 I wouldn’t have published a book if it wasn’t any good. And, yeah. All of my books are good. (Author bias, here? Perhaps. But even one’s bias can be informed, and quality literature has been informing this bibliophile ever since she learned the alphabet. Besides, I firmly believe that authors should firmly believe in their work, or else they shouldn’t be publishing it.)

Anyhow, and thankfully, I think many readers do realize that authors grow as they go, just like anyone or anything else in life. I do reread my own books for pleasure, and I pay attention to my readers’ feedback. So if I find or am alerted to an error that truly matters in an older book of mine, yes, I’ll correct it. One of the perks of independent publishing, there. As for areas in my older writing that could’ve been better but that don’t really need to be changed now, I make a note of those areas for future writing. Then I have to breathe, know that my older writing is what it is, and know that it’s okay. I was a good writer when I published it, and I’m an even better writer now. That’s life.

With that said, I do think there are good reasons for authors to go back to revise older books, at times. I myself have revised and published new editions of some of my work. Even so, if you want to be a prolific author, it won’t be possible to keep going back to revise everything you’ve ever published. Therefore, you’ve got to have grace with yourself. Know that there’s no such thing as a book that’s perfect to everyone, and your older books don’t have to be perfect in order to keep making a positive impact in readers’ lives.

You were a good writer back when you published it. And you’re an even better writer now.

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Here are two love stories, second editions of books that are even better now: Yella’s Prayers and World of the Innocent.

  

Writing for Love or Money?

writing-for-love-or-money

Oh, I’ve heard various tips and ideas from various folks in the business.

“Authors have to study a genre, research the current trends in that genre, and then write books that follow those trends, if they want their books to sell.”

“You’ll lose your passion for writing and limit your creativity if you’re only trying to be trendy or fit in a popular box. Besides, readers don’t want the same book they’ve already read, just with a different author’s name on it. Stop worrying about the fads and write the book you’re meant to write, since there are people who’re meant to read it.”

“You have to pick up the pace and put out several books a year if you want a worthwhile return on your writing investment.”

“Quit trying to write and publish so many books so fast. That’s sloppy, and it’s not fair to readers or to yourself. Slow down and respect the art of writing.”

“It’s pointless to write and publish if you’re not making decent money from it.”

“It’s pointless to write and publish if you’re in it for money. That’s not what writing’s about.”

I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist.

So. Is it better to write and publish for the love of books, or is it better to write and publish for other rewards? Hm. Well, I’m of the mindset that different writers write for different reasons, and I believe one writer’s reasons can be just as legitimate as another’s.

Some authors are looking to publish masterpieces that people will read, contemplate, and learn from for generations. Other authors focus instead on giving their fans a good time, here and now. Some writers are looking to make a living from their writing. Others aren’t. Some authors are looking to publish and sell multiple books in their lifetimes. Others aren’t. Some writers write because there’s a burning, vital message in their souls, and they simply must unleash their voice into the world. Other writers research market trends and deliberately write what’s trending in order to sell a lot of what people are enjoying these days.

Whatever one’s different purpose, motivation, or goals may be, I don’t think it makes one writer’s love and appreciation for literature, or even one’s professionalism, more or less than another’s. I believe the world needs all kinds of authors and different kinds of books, from the deep masterworks to the fluffy-and-fun stuff and everything else in between.

I’ve often said that for a writer, it’s important to know specifically why you, the individual, write. It will affect what decisions you make, what risks you’ll take, where you’ll place your priorities, and what will make it all worthwhile or rewarding to you.

Someone else’s reasons for writing may differ from yours, but that doesn’t mean those reasons are better or worse. Be true to your purpose for writing, put in the work toward your goals, and celebrate others who are doing likewise.

Luther (2003)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
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Luther

Luther (2003) from Eikon Film
Rated PG-13. Drama, History/Biography, Faith Theme, War/Epic

Four Silver Stars1/2

Description (from the film case): Joseph Fiennes stars as Martin Luther, the brilliant man of God whose defiant actions changed the world, in this “epic, ravishingly beautiful” (The New York Times) film that traces Luther’s extraordinary and exhilarating quest for the people’s liberation.

Regional princes and the powerful Church wield a fast, firm and merciless grip on 16th-century Germany. But when Martin Luther issues a shocking challenge to their authority, the people declare him their new leader–and hero. Even when threatened with violent death, Luther refuses to back down, sparking a bloody revolution that shakes the entire continent to its core.

My thoughts: ‎I appreciate Fiennes’s portrayal of Martin Luther as a man of passion and conviction as well as doubt and inner agony. The film takes an intriguing look at Church history as well as quite a look, though not always a pretty one, at how human beings just…are, sometimes. Even with its obvious faith theme, I wouldn’t put the movie in the genre of “faith films,” though I think it has much for faith film lovers as well as epic and historical movie fans to enjoy.

My corresponding reading: Concerning Christian Liberty (or On Christian Liberty) by Martin Luther and Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund.

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