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  • Bill Kernodle

You Cannot Write If You Will Not Read


In my pursuit of the “writer’s life” I have been neglecting the one item that is the most necessary to my success. No, it is not writing itself, it is reading.


Yesterday I was very tired and had no energy to write or to study about writing. I determined to read a bit. I gathered a stack of fiction and also some instructional books which could be considered as study material but I dug into the first one that struck my fancy, Mark Twain’s Roughing It.


I absolutely love mark Twain because his sense of humor is particularly appealing to me. The way he phrases his narrative and his insights into language in particular.


Along the first part of the journey of the heroes in the story, (Twain as himself and his brother) we find them on a stagecoach traveling westward toward the open country of early America and the wide-open plains. A woman enters the coach after a time and says nothing for a time but rather is occupied with swatting mosquitoes that perch on her arm. After some time, Mr. Twain attempts a conversation.


She is unleashed now in the torrent of speech that she “rains” upon them and Mr. Twain remarks thusly: …”she rained the nine parts of speech forty days and forty nights, metaphorically speaking, and buried us under a desolating deluge of trivial gossip that left not a crag or pinnacle of rejoinder projecting above the tossing waste of dislocated grammar and decomposed pronunciation!” (Underlining mine for emphasis.)


All I can say is wow! I could never have thought of expressing myself in this way or be able to describe a situation so thoroughly and distinctly as to give the reader the impression that they were there at the time.


Only by reading this story from Twain’s own pen am I exposed to such brilliance of mind and fluidity of writing. The excellence of his writing is only compounded the further we read. I cannot go into all that he says which is excellent as I would simply post the entire book as one large clump.


The point is I would never have found such a turn of phrase, never would have been so entertained, never would have been given such inspiration had I not opened the book.

This is so obvious but bears repeating, not the least to myself, that the inspiration I need is waiting for me in the pages that have already been written.


Seek out a book and dive in! Your writing cannot but be better as a result. Perhaps you may unleash a torrent of speech upon your reader. You never know.

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