Friday, June 14, 2013

8 Reasons Writers Should Join a Book Club

If you’re a writer, chances are you’re a reader too. And if you’re not, I’d like to talk to you about it because frankly, I find that very strange. I think most writers are reading something pretty much all of the time. We bemoan the fact that reading can interfere with our writing productivity (so many books!), but we can’t seem to help ourselves. Reading takes your mind out of your own project, it takes time away from the keyboard, and it usually leads to the opening of more books. But it must be done.

For over ten years, I’ve been in a book club that branched off from a local moms’ club when all of our kids were still toddling around. Back then the early evening hours seemed a perfect time to escape the house, right when kids were melting down, pre-bedtime, needing snacks, baths and just one more story. Things have changed and in some ways, it’s even more hectic for some of us now. Our once-prompt group now filters in over the course of the first hour. I think we mostly come for the wine—that much has stayed the same. We’ve had laughs and arguments, quiet nights and adventures, books we hated, books we loved and lots of books that fell somewhere in the middle. So if you’re reading anyway, join a book club! Why, you ask, would I add something else to my schedule when I never get enough writing done anyway? Well, here are eight reasons:

1.     It gets you out of the house. Reading, writing—both solitary endeavors. If you emerge from your home most days, blinking into the sunshine like a mole and unable to produce an intelligible spoken sentence, you need to get out more. Books are your friends but they’re not your friends; do you know what I mean?

2.   It forces you to read things out of your genre. Even if you roll your eyes when a club member chooses that science fiction book, it may teach you something about pacing, or plotting, or science! Free your mind.

3.     It makes you realize that readers are unpredictable and individual, and you’ll never please all of them. Believe it or not, this actually comes as a relief! If you’re with a group long enough, you’ll start predicting how certain people will feel about certain books and after more time, you’ll realize that you’re seldom right. So many things play into the reader’s experience: timing, personal taste, annoying children. You just have to write and hope for a majority. 
   4.    You can impose your tastes onto others. Yes, you can make everyone read those classics you loved in school! You can choose experimental fiction you don’t even like yourself, just for the guilty pleasure of seeing the veins in your clubmates’ foreheads bulge while they eviscerate them.

     5.     You may find a couple of good beta readers. If you’re a smart cookie, you’ll pick a club with other smart cookies. Some of these may agree, with bribing, to read something you’ve written. This is good, very good.

6.     Someone else makes food for you once a month. This is an important one and related to #7. Think about this. You show up, food’s there. You just sit and eat it.

7.     Someone buys wine (or something else) for you to drink. Same principle as #6, only better.

 8.     You can come up with all sorts of side-events for your book club. Field trips to see movies or plays based on books, dinners out, even trips to celebrate a club’s anniversary, as mine did last fall. All of this is expanded from the principle of #1, which involves getting you out of the house! You may not be ready for these bigger steps right away and let’s face it—those book club girls can be crazy (or is it just mine?)—but start at least with the first thing. Find some people to talk about books with. Not the internet. In person. With food, preferably. And wine.
"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka