Reading to Write – listening with heart

IMG_2060The air is cool as I sit on the deck in the early morning. I have fallen for a book. I have fallen hard. I am surprised.

It is a book I need to read for a book group. I was not thrilled with the topic. Death and suicide is not what I wanted to read about this summer. I was looking for light, fun, a summer read.

But I had started reading it during the quick rain squall last night. Winds blowing, thunder, a bit of lighting and rain falling fast and straight (How does it do that when the trees were blowing just a few minutes before?) – the unsettled weather seemed right for the description of the book.

This morning – clear, bright, cool, blue – maybe not what I want to read. At breakfast I decided to sit in a sunny spot and try again just the same. The characters voices seem to pull me into their story. The chapters alternate between the two main characters. Each one strong with personalities that intrigue me. The book is alive, and the location real. I could not stop reading.

At one level I am reading for story. I am caught and can’t put it down. I want to be on the journey with these two as they sort through their lives.

On another level I am fascinated at the author craft. Her characters breath – I find myself holding my breath when they do, breathing fast when they do. I breath with them. She makes connection to literature to pull her characters through to the next step in their relationship. She puts you into her story.

The setting is not richly described but slips into you thinking -it appears through the characters passing conversation. The language is plan, simple and fitting for the age of these young people.

As a new writer of fiction I am struck at the life behind the words. They are simple words put in just the right order. The emotions of our author and her characters jump from the page.

As I turn to my own writing and see my disinterest in continuing, I understand my characters are now not alive yet. The location and time are not fully drawn. This story of mine has not started to breath yet.

My story is just a beginning shell. A holding place of thoughts, conversations, and actions. It is missing the deeper emotion that brings a story to life. I realize this morning I am a bit afraid to step into those emotions. I am holding tight to my even and steady life but my characters are holding so much more. Maybe I am as well.

I like keeping things even, calm and settled. Except when that happens in a story we as readers don’t care, we lose interest and wander away. We read to feel those deeper emotions. We read to understand those emotions without having to experience them in real life.

As a writer I need to take that step, to walk into the fears and loss my characters feel. If I don’t write from the heart my readers will not listen with theirs.

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”
William Wordsworth


About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
This entry was posted in Reflection, writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Reading to Write – listening with heart

  1. newtreemom says:

    Sitting on your deck must be lovely. Being there with a book you have fallen for, even better. Isn’t it something how a good writer can pull us into a story even when we doubt they will? Keep listening for the breath of your characters.

  2. chrisleish says:

    Your words in your post are all in the right place. Thank you for sharing this. I felt the mood of the weather last night and can identify with the resistance to reading something “heavy” during summer- but finding that it is just the journey you (I) needed to take. Wondering what the book is…but it doesn’t really matter. My pile is still more than I can possibly read in the month + ahead. Keep writing…your voice reads true.

  3. Lori Sheroan says:

    “If I don’t write from the heart my readers will not listen with theirs.” – such a powerful and true statement. I struggle with the same issues in my own writing. Thank you for this honest reflection.

  4. Joanne Toft says:

    Keep writing – one little bit at a time. It is what I keep telling myself.

  5. This is such a true post. Writing really honestly is really hard, as is any honest creative work. Thank you for the thoughts.

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