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Comfort Reading

I wonder if other writers feel this way about books they read.

I’m looking for inspiration. It’s not that I don’t have ideas about what to write next, it’s that I’m aware this isn’t a Codex entry and if I add too much sentimental texture to the opening chapters then I’m going to have to come up with a lot more sentimental texture for the rest of the book too. And I may have run out of words for ‘fire’ (as in, fire a gun).

So I read other books. I watch movies. I listen to music. I spent some money this week on some soundtracks (Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II; Hans Zimmer’s Gladiator; Two Steps From Hell: Invincible) – these are best, I think, because there’s no lyrics and it’s pure emote.

But where there are words, there’s a writer. I fear I have a terrible inferiority complex. I read something by a writer with a mastery of the language, a vocabulary far beyond mine, and I feel intimidated. But I can’t read something that feels too inferior to me, for whatever reason, because I don’t enjoy it and it only serves to tell me, however wrongly, that I’m already better than that and I don’t need to write more to prove myself.

I’ve read some other stories this week, with vocabularies closer to mine. It’s not that these writers aren’t masters too, because they’re published and popular, but there’s something clearer and more accessible about these works and my mind can work with that rhythm, and add in the occasional word of my own if I want to feel like I’m somehow contributing to the world.

But because it’s not my world I remember that the story doesn’t always work at the pace I’m writing it, and I’ll have skipped over big details, and I have to stop and insert details so the reader knows what’s going on. And I remember the writers I know talking about the works they’ve done and their intentions for the character and I don’t remember them talking about the words. The words to fill paragraphs out and add texture, the words which captivate that slightly-wider audience than just themselves. Yes, you know that’s a Space Marine you’re writing about, but does your reader, and do they know what one is? These things have to be explained a little. Is that tedious, working your art around this need? Or are these an easy tithe to the word count god?

And last week, in a moment of surprise, I picked one book off the shelf, flicked to a short story within, smiled at the signature, and read the opening few pages again. And I know I can write, and that I have a style, because this is my published story, and it’s something I want to read.

That’s not too narcissistic, is it?

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