Writing about writing

Posts tagged ‘reading’

To finish or not to finish….

Early in this past Spring semester, a student of mine recommended a book to me. She was so excited, “Oh! You’ll love it, Mrs. Watson! I’ll bring you my copy so you can read it! I just know you’ll love it!” It took most of the semester, but she finally brought the book for me. Because the end of the semester is so busy for me, it was after the semester was over before I was finally able to begin reading it.

Unfortunately, my student’s prediction that I would love the book did not come true. From the very first chapter, I was grossed out, disgusted, and just plain and simply disappointed. The book is a so-called “modern” interpretation on a great British classic. This modern version failed to capture my attention and it was, plain and simply, just awful.

In spite of that fact, I determinedly plowed through the novel until I finished it. A number of friends of mine told me that they would never force themselves to finish a book they so clearly disliked and that they would not waste their precious time on such drivel. I almost didn’t finish reading the book because it was so bad.

But something inside me compelled me to finish the book. There are very few books in my life that I have begun and not finished. One of them was a book I learned was written by a cult leader after I started reading it. Once I learned that about the author, I quickly got rid of that particular book. The only other books I’ve never finished are coloring books. I’ve almost always finished every single book I have ever started reading, whether I liked the book or not.

There have been plenty of books I have not enjoyed in the slightest, but I have finished every single one. A few of those books are:

  • Needful Things by Stephen King
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Graham-Smith
  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  • The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
  • The House of Night series by P. C. and Kristin Cast

Why? Because I read. It’s what I do. Regardless of whether I like what I’m reading or not.

In a small way, I feel like if I don’t like something, I need to be able to say exactly why I don’t like that particular something. I can’t stand having discussions with people about books who haven’t even read the book they’re discussing, especially when such people so adamantly dislike the book. Well, why do you dislike the book? If you didn’t read it, how can you possibly know whether or not the book is any good. The typical response is, “Well, I read the first chapter and hated it, so I just quit reading it” or I hear, “Well, so-and-so told me it isn’t a good book, so I just never read it.”


Politically, don’t tell me which candidate I should vote for unless you have REAL knowledge–truth–about the candidates. Don’t spout off information you learned from Grandpa or Uncle Joe or from something you read on the internet.

Parents love hearing from someone who has 0 children how to raise their kids. Yeah. Right. That goes over real well. Not.

Or movies….I know hundreds of people who love movies like Talladega Nights and I honestly and truly can’t stand it.

But that is the beauty of the world we live in. It’s why there are hundreds of thousands of books, movies, tv shows, and a variety of political parties, and even a hundred different churches in a 10-mile square radius. And the list goes on.

We don’t all like the same thing. What you like, I might not like. What I like, you might not like. Look at the number of editors who rejected the Harry Potter series as an example of what I mean!!!!

You will never know, though, whether or not you like something for yourself unless you read it (watch it, learn about it, study it, etc.) yourself. I love it when someone tells me about a book he/she read that he/she just loved. I love the person’s enthusiasm. I’ve gotten excited enough because someone else was excited about a book that I’ve bought the book and started reading it within an hour of talking to the person who recommended the book!

I haven’t always liked the book as the first person did, and the people who read books I recommend don’t always like the books I recommend. But it is so much fun sharing what we enjoyed or didn’t enjoy about a story and being able to discuss the book intelligently rather than because one of us “heard about” the book or read the SparkNotes.

Critical thinking, at its heart, is being able to take in information, read, ruminate on it, research as needed, discuss with others, maybe even write about it, and come to a clear, logical, intellectual conclusion. When we haven’t done the necessary research, reading, etc., we can’t possibly formulate a logical or intellectual conclusion, especially not one that is our own.

So I have gone all the way around my arm to get to my elbow to say this: I read books all the way through to the ending even if I don’t like them.

What about you????



Having a Routine and Sticking to It

Before the last several weeks, I would have sworn to you that I do NOT have nor do I keep any measure of a Routine.  My schedule changes every several months–I teach at a community college, so I never have a consistent schedule for very long.  I am one of those moms who never put my son on any sort of schedule or Routine–if he was hungry, he ate (when he was a baby)–ok, and even now that’s true (he’s currently 14).  I don’t have a dinner schedule, a house-cleaning schedule, a particular day or time to do laundry, a specific day/time to go to the grocery store, and the list goes on and on.  I have just never thought of myself as someone who has much of a Routine.

But recent events have made me realize that I am very much a woman of Routine and when my Routine is interrupted, I do not handle it very well.

When my son was approximately two years old, we were invited by some close friends–at the last minute–to go camping with them over the weekend of the 4th.  On a whim, we agreed to go.  Don’t judge me, but my son was still using a bottle at night to help him get to sleep.  Yeah.  In all the hustle and bustle and flurry of getting ready at the last minute, yes, we forgot to pack a bottle.  We got to the campsite; we set up camp; the kids all went swimming; we had supper and cooked marshmallows and had s’mores.  It was perfect.  My son fell asleep in my arms as we all enjoyed each others’ company around the campfire.  I put him in the tent and then spent another hour or so chatting with my friends.  It wasn’t too long before my son woke up and wanted his bottle.  Oops.  So I sat with him on my lap for a while, believing that he would settle down and go to sleep.  Before I knew it, he and I were sitting in our Jeep with the lights on while he clawed me and jumped [on me] at every tiny noise.  The following morning, as soon as the gates to the park were open, I made my husband take us home–he had to go back to pack up all of our gear.  We weren’t in the car 5 minutes before my son was sound asleep.  He slept the whole way home.  And guess who was wide awake once we were home and my husband left to go back to the campsite?!  Needless to say, I have only been camping one other time in the past 14 years.

That experience taught me that I am NOT a woman who likes or is able to be spontanuous.  When I am asked to do something last minute, I tend to say No.  I refuse to find myself in such a situation every again.

You would think that lesson alone would have taught me that I am a woman who prefers Routine.  But no; I still believed that I was NOT a woman of Routine.

Every day, I spend time reading my Bible, doing a devotion, writing in my journal, and just reading.  Whenever I have gone home to visit family, I don’t do any of those things–except read.  When we went to Disney World two years ago, not only did I not do those things while we were on vacation, I also didn’t do them for the rest of the year once we got back home.  When my parents, my son, and I went to Pigeon Forge this past week, in spite of taking my Bible, devotional, journal, and my book with me, I didn’t open a single one the whole trip.

I also don’t eat any salads or other fruits and vegetables when I’m traveling.  It’s just so much easier to eat junk food and imagejpeg_osnacks.  Nor do I exercise in any way–unless you count going swimming (which I don’t because I usually just get in the pool to get wet and cool off rather than doing any actual swimming).  And once I’m home, rather than going to the gym the very next day, it’s several days later before I get back to going.

Now that we have been home for two-and-a-half days, I am finding it a pure and complete pleasure to be able to get back into my Routine….I have caught up with my Bible reading (I’m reading the Bible through in a year, so I have a plan I’m trying to stick to), I’m writing in my journal again, and all the rest!  And I love it.  I’m finding that I really missed THIS part of my days.  While going on vacation and/or visiting family are things that I love and want to do, I am finding that I would much rather stay home–mostly because in staying home, I am able to stay in my Routine!

What does any of this have to do with writing?  Everything.  I didn’t do any writing–journaling or otherwise–while I was on vacation/visiting family.  It just seems rude to go to a private place and be by myself even for just an hour to do the things that I so love to do and that are a part of my regular daily Routine–when I’m home.

I am either going to have to find a way to continue my regular daily Routine no matter where I am or what I’m doing, or I’m going to have to quit going on vacation!!!  It’s no wonder, though, that I’m not getting the writing done that I so desperately want to do.  Once I get out of my daily Routine, it takes me several days to get back into it.  So not only do I lose the days I am actually ON vacation, but I also lose several days afterwards as I attempt to acclimate myself back into my regular Routine.

Needless to say, I have learned something important about myself and I am going to use this as a positive learning experience.  Just because I leave my home does not have to mean leaving my whole Routine at home.  These things that I do on a daily basis are important and shouldn’t be swept aside just because I am not in MY Routine for a few days.  I have to make a CONSCIOUS effort to keep doing the important things I need–and want–to do.

My mom and I at the TITANIC museum in Pigeon Forge, TN.

My mom and I at the TITANIC museum in Pigeon Forge, TN.

I’ve already had to get online….

Well, it’s obviously not going to be a complete week of Reading Deprivation and/or digital [Fasting].  Haha!  Oh well.  It’s to be expected.  I AM an English Instructor at a community college, after all.  Regardless of what I may want to do or not, I do still have to check my campus emails, grade assignments, create assignments, help students with assignments, and the list goes on.

I can, though, avoid reading for pleasure as well as my own personal emails and, the big one, Facebook.

This is already a very interesting experiment, Julia Cameron.

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Happy Banned Books Week!

Good video going around on Facebook:  Jay Asher and other authors talk about Banned Book Week

Every year, my fellow English Instructors and I attempt to plan something for Banned Book Week and every year, it creeps up on us and we realize that we didn’t plan ahead well enough!  That doesn’t mean that we don’t do what we can at the last minute, though!

This year, we’re making a bulletin board with pictures of us holding/reading banned books.  So of course we need some banned books for the pictures.  When I came in this morning, we started looking to see what we have and we realized that out of the 8 English full-time faculty at our college, I have the most banned books already in my office on campus!  I have books such as:

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

and many others!  What makes it so funny (ironic) that I have all these banned books is that as a Christian, I guess you wouldn’t expect to see me with some of these books since they’re banned for religious reasons!  When HARRY POTTER first came out all those years ago, I had three different students GIVE me a copy of the book with the declaration, “You HAVE to read this book, Mrs. Watson!”  I was interested, but before I could begin reading the book, each and every time, my pastor husband found the books and threw them away!!!!  Needless to say, it was not until all seven books had been published before I finally had a chance to sit down and read them–and fall in love with them!

Of course I have been blasted by church-goers and other so-called Bible believers for being a fan of HARRY POTTER and that’s fine.  Since they haven’t read the books, they don’t KNOW….It’s no use arguing with those who do NOT know, know what I mean?!

I find that I don’t read certain books for religious, political, or even necessarily educational reasons.  If I want to read something, I read it.  I feel that I am adult and mature enough to be able to handle certain material in books that others find objectionable.  Some of the books that are on banned books lists are some of the VERY best books you could read!

So don’t let anyone tell you what is good or not!!!!  If you like it and want to read it, Read it!  If you have questions or concerns, talk to someone.  That’s my favorite part about reading anyway–talking to others about what I’ve read!!!!

The following quote is oh, so true!  Remember in The Neverending Story when Bastian takes the book from Mr. Coriander’s?  Mr. Coriander knows the truth of this and Bastian does exactly what he is SUPPOSED to do!!!


Maybe, just maybe, one day, I will write and publish something that has the incredible honor of being banned….Here’s hoping!!!

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