Backyard Books: Using Reading to Enhance Your Writing

  Once, my backyard was Narnia. The trees had minds of their own; resident pets spoke in voices only I could hear. In my hot-and-cold Louisiana winter, snow never came because I had defeated the White Witch, the Pevensie children by my side.

And in the fall, when our bonfire pile grew high with sticks and scraps, it wasn’t just a pile. No, it was the Lonely Mountain, and my charge was to defend it from dragonfire. From the ground, Smaug looked like a harmless sparrow in the sky, but I knew better. The fate of the Lonely Mountain—even of Middle Earth—was in my hands. I wouldn’t let it burn.

That was my creative reading, manifested in the veritable wonderland behind my one-story suburban house. Now that I’m older, I can’t go scrambling up piles of sticks or whispering to the trees. I can’t pass off pebbles as the dwarf-king’s gold, but my mind still builds around the words I read, even if my body is at rest. When immersed in a book, I imagine the scene, the characters—even myself included in the pages. 

I am a creative reader, through and through. And that exercise of my imagination makes me a better writer. Creativity is like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it gets. So when you read, don’t resign yourself to being an outsider. Instead, take part in the story by accessing your imagination. Let yourself be transported to a different world and see if it doesn’t make a difference in the world to which you belong. You might just find that the next world you create is just a little better than the one before.

Today’s Prompt: Read a chapter in another author’s book or a short story. Now imagine yourself as a key player in that story, and write it again from your perspective. How is the story different now that you’re there?

Happy Writing!

KC

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