Yesterday I did something that I do not like to do. I allowed a friend to borrow a book. Saying that I don’t like to share or loan books is putting it mildly. I will resort to lying and deceit to avoid loaning a book. With a straight face, I will tell you that I lost a book or can’t find it because I am afraid that if I loan it to you, I will never see it again. And many of my books mean so much to me that I do not want to let them go.
Well, this particular friend is very dear to me, so I allowed her to borrow “At First Sight,” by Nicholas Sparks. Ok, here’s some backstory: I am always reading two books at one time. I have one that I carry with me throughout the day to read whenever I get a chance and then there’s one in the bathroom. I sometimes sit in there and just read. If my kids haven’t seen me for a while, they know to come check in there. So, I was reading “At First Sight” in the bathroom and it fell in the sink. That wail you heard that day was not the thunderstorm moving in, it was me. I imagine the scream I let out was heard round the globe. That was really the shot heard round the world. I could have died. A part of me did. I had fallen in love with that book. I cried while reading it. I laughed, really, I only smiled. I fell in and out of love. I had highlighted sentences, passages, and words.
So, when I handed my friend the book, because it has lost its form from falling in the sink of water, the book fell open in her hands. To a page where I had highlighted a passage and underlined some sentences in red pen. The underlined passages for me, the writer. The highlighted parts are for me, the reader.
There are two things I can guarantee you I always have in my purse: a pen and a highlighter. I like to highlight passages or sentences that resonate with me as a reader or person. Usually these passages resonate with me because I have experienced something where the words would have been useful or because I have felt that way myself at one time or another.
Here’s an example: I’m currently re-reading “Waiting in Vain” by Colin Channer. I have read this book many, many times before. I started reading it again recently when I was walking past my bookshelf and happened to pick it up. I opened it to a sentence I had highlighted and it intrigued me again. So I started reading it again.
So, here’s something that I have underlined: “He thought it was natural but private, like a bowel movement.” In the margin, I wrote: odd comparison. It struck me as very odd, but for some reason it works. Take a chance with your figurative language is what I got from this comparison. Because, had I wrote something like this, I might have gone back and deleted it, thinking who wants to be reminded of their bowel movements. But, again, this works. The reader is describing how it felt to be caught masturbating in a burned-out car, in an empty lot. A private act, that, though many do, they don’t want to be caught in the middle of it.
Okay. Now, this is one of the sentences I highlighted: “Three months is a long time for a woman, she thought, especially with a man like this, one who makes love from the inside out — from the core of her soul where she hides her fears, to the taut muscles on the back of her neck.” I just simply loved the sound of a man who is able to love like this. These are the beginning lines that allowed me to fall in love with the male protagonist, Fire, in this novel. I love this man. I mean really love this man. Yes, I realize he’s fictional. But the language the author uses to reveal and describe this man makes me fall in love with him every time I read this book.
So, back to the reason why I started this. My friend looked at the highlighted passages and wondered aloud if they would be passages that would resonate with her. Maybe, maybe not. We all have lived different lives and the lines that light up my life, may or may not be the ones that help connect you, as a reader, to a book.
I have never read something and taken it and literally used it as a guide for something I’m writing, but I do believe I internalize these words, lines, and passages that resonate with me. And, somehow, they make me a better writer. So, I will always read with two tools by my side: a pen and a highlighter. I suggest you do the same. Sometimes it’s okay to read like a reader; but for us, it’s better to read like a writer who is searching for pieces of gold in a miner’s cave. A cave that happened to catch our attention for one reason or another.
Happy writing and reading peeps!
Peace & Love,