Think of someone like Frederick Douglass, who brought himself up out of slavery by sneaking out and teaching himself to read. Books weren’t some idle pursuit or pastime to him, they were survival itself. And despite this dire situation, he managed to read and, as the writer Thomas Sowell once put it, “educate himself to the point where his words now have to be explained to today’s expensively under-educated generation.” --Ryan Holiday, "How To Read More--a Lot More" (hat tip to Prufrock)
|Phoenicia Publishing, 2012|
The "trick" that people expect to underlie Holiday's extensive reading reminds me of what people say about writing. People often ask me about quantity when it comes to writing. It's probably the most frequent question I hear. "How do you get so much done?" It usually seems like a silly issue to me because writing is not in the least about quantity. For one rather lurid example, the young Chidiock Tichbourne--wonderful name--is remembered for a single lovely poem, written just before he was eviscerated, hanged, and drawn and quartered. Two of his other poems survive. Meanwhile, poets who wrote hundreds or thousands of pages have vanished into oblivion, with none of their words remaining for later times.
For once, though, I'll take the question seriously.
On the inside, what I accomplish doesn't feel like so much, particularly of late when I had all my usual duties plus serving as a judge for a national award and having the surprise of two adult children returning to the nest for a year. As a member of a busy family with five members, I decided to let go all thought of writing a novel; I didn't want to feel resentful about any increased work that would prevent daily writing. In fact, I decided that I would only write poetry, and not a long, sustained poem like Thaliad but poems under three pages. Still, on some days I am drowning in errands and old-house repair and drudgery, and my three children have needs that must be addressed. It seems impossible to be a writer then.
|UK: Stanza Press, 2012|
It's not so very different from Holiday's advice to readers...