Of all my non-fiction books, the largest category by a short head is my ‘writing techniques’ section, ie all the books that tell me how to write. A quick count puts the total at around 100. And that’s not including numerous ebooks, and of course, several paperback Writers’ And Artists’ Yearbooks. (Why do I keep the old ones when I get a new copy? am I thinking of going back in time to publish something? No idea. But that could work, couldn’t it?)
Of these, only a handful have ever actually helped me. Many of them I have never even looked inside since getting them home. Some of them, I’ve flicked through and read snippets here and there. Others don’t even get that far. I’ve glanced down the contents page and thought, ‘Ooh that looks interesting’, bought the book, stuck it on the shelf and awaited the imparting of its wisdom to my writer’s soul via the wonderful process of osmosis.
Some are reference works on a specific subject, such as books on poisons or weapons. I mainly just use them to refer to now and again, usually with a sense of horrified fascination. A bit like my husband when he looks at my Internet browser history. I’ve also got tons of history books, and books on fashion and costume history. These are probably the only ones I’ll ever read, if I’m brutally honest.
As a writer I feel the need to ‘research’ how to write. Especially when I start a new book, as I often feel I’ve forgotten how to do it since the last time. And I know I’m not the only one to ‘stock-pile’ useful information. But I do wonder if there is a psychological reason I don’t actually want to read the books. Maybe I’m just scared I won’t understand.
I know I put pressure on myself, especially in those few short weeks when I’m not working on a new book. I feel I have to cram in knowledge and learning, yet I don’t want to do it, I just want to read for pleasure, not to learn. I can’t even get through all my emails, let alone read a bunch of books telling me to write differently than I naturally do.
After a nightmarish 2017, I’ve decided that 2018 will be a pressure-free, happy year of writing. Let’s see if the carrot actually works better than the stick. I bet it does.