Last week a friend gave me a copy of Nicholas Sparks’ Three Weeks With My Brother (http://www.nicholas sparks.com/LearnMore.asp?BookID=9).She promised an insightful and entertaining novel. Now, being familiar with many of his books (The Guardian, Nights in Rodanthe, Message in a Bottle, Dear John, The Lucky One, The Notebook, etc.) and in the wake of such praise I was eager to jump right into the book. Though I must admit my tastes for pure entertainment reading run more toward the Sci-Fi/Fantasy and action romances, I needed some R&R. Considering the fact that I had not read a book since January when I purposefully limited my reading in order to finish and edit my latest book, I was more than ready for some relaxing hours on the couch submerging my mind in someone else’s world.
Familiar as I am with Sparks’ writing and a fan of several of the movies made from his books, I looked forward to not just a good read, but a great read! The anticipation was almost as good as the moment I sat down to crack the cover and discover the secrets of brotherhood. To my surprise and complete disgust, I found myself evaluating each paragraph as I read, looking for similes and metaphors, checking for spelling errors and POV changes. I hunted through the text for dangling modifiers, passive and active voices, over use of conjunctive adverbs, weak plot points, nominalization, and a host of other no-nos of the professional writing world. Half way through the book I realized I was not enjoying myself at all but intensely studying the manuscript. My mind wound around Sparks’ witty dialog and found doublemeaning in every comparative passage. I carefully examined the style and timing of his past and present recitations. I questioned the placement of memories, drawing parallels between the current day trip of the two brothers and Nicholas’ trip through childhood with Mica. In short, I spent three days passionately immersed in a novel written by one of the most successful writers of the contemporary market. By the time I finished Three Weeks With My Brother I was exhausted, depressed and disgusted with myself. It seemed my reading for pure pleasure was ruined! Possibly…
I think at some point, all authors reach the same stage in their own personal struggle to write as I have; the point where you can no longer pick up a book for simple enjoyment but where everything you read becomes an elemental study of the craft of writing at some conscious level. A problem, to be sure, but only bothersome if over done.
For example, one evening last fall my husband, Tim and I attended a dinner party with old family friends. Being new to the area, our “old friends” invited us to their home in Baltimore to catch up and for some “family talk”. Little did we know our friends had also invited their uncle and aunt who are, in the distinct eastern manner of speaking, old Baltimore. Fascinating people, Uncle Joe and Aunt Bev lived exciting lives and in their nineties, still worked at their antiquities business. The history of their connections and social networks were captivating. We sat for hours around the dinner table listening to tales of Uncle Joe, Aunt Bev and the rich and famous of America and Europe. At one point Uncle Joe mentioned his brother, an infamous antiquities dealer who currently lived in France with his family. In his nineties as well, he was still awaiting a trial in Italy on charges of illegal dealing in antiquities. Any writer out there just get the chills? Hang on because it gets better!
I believe the most telling moment came when I was watching an action movie on opening day with Tim and a guy from my office. All three of us are dyed-in-the-wool hard core action fans so it's become a tradition to attend opening days of true shoot-'em-ups. As we sat glued to the screen delighting in one special effect after another amid crashes, gunfire and explosions I calmly stated, “for an action flick the hero’s dialog is way too passive.” My husband, bless his heart, just shook his head, smiled and handed me the popcorn bag! He had already figured out what took me a little more time to realize. You can take the writer out of the office but a writer is a writer and always will be.
Pursuing writing as a professional has truly changed the tenor of my life. That epiphany could have been discouraging, but it wasn’t. I soon realized I had not destroyed my reading and viewing pleasure but simply taken it to new heights! In my case the realization was not only encouraging but optimistically validating. When I told Tim about my intuitive leap of self-understanding, he got that look that said "I've known for a while even if you are just figuring it out." Did I mention his patience?
While I may not enjoy reading for the same kind of pleasure I used to, I have attained a new level of awareness of the craft of writing which is a joy in and of itself.
In simple terms it means I have finally become what I have bee
n striving to be. Finally, I am a professional writer, even dare I say, an author!
For more information about Miriam's books go to: www.miriammatthews.com