Writing each day is good discipline. It is good to be able to share our stories with each other. One of the most important parts of writing is reading.
When I was in graduate school I learned bout learning but more than that I learned about words.
When I first started graduate school I had an assistantship in the University office that provided small grants and other special programs for faculty. I was perpetually in awe of the fact that the faculty came and went from our offices as if was the most normal thing in the world. Some of them even stopped to talk to me.
Each of the faculty who came to us came for a reason, always related to learning something. People had small grants to start new projects. We funded seminar series. We supported continuing education. We supported sabbaticals. We worked with new technology so that we could help others across campus learn about the coming trends like desk-top computers.
As the graduate assistant is was my job to advertise our offerings, organize the materials needed and keep people abreast of what was going on, make sure that the guest faculty were organized and had what they needed. I tool the reservations from participants and made sure the room was set up properly. I was present in every session for nearly two years.
I learned many things sitting in those seminars. The thing I most remember was a guest lecturer telling a faculty who wanted to write more, “If you want to write, you have to read. Read. Then you can write.”
One of the treasures we lost in the fire were our books. Thousands and thousands and thousands of words. Most novels range between 60,000 and 150,000 words. Using those figures we probably had over 100 million words in our house that burned. We had books from all over the world. We had books that were published in the 1700 and a page from a book that was published in the 1400s. We had modern travel guides. We had novels. We had stacks and stacks and stacks of history books since my spouse is a history professor. We had stacks and stacks of psychology books, my original field.
I had a large collection of antiquarian statistics books, including a few first editions. I suppose first edition statistics books are not a hot topic with some people but I had one of the very first books that contained Pearson’s correlation statistic in it. Think of how often you hear the word correlation and remember that the term related to a quantifiable concept came from Karl Pearson. I also had a large collection of religion and spirituality books. Some were old but some were newer. I had a commendable library of writings Christian mystics which contained much of the known writing of the women mystics.
We had art books. Those were mostly my spouses and were used for his antiques business and for our personal collections of things that were in need of homes like our safe harbor for hurt antique baskets.
We had a first edition of Edward Curtis’s own compiled photographs of the American West and the Native Peoples who live here. We had an antiquarian copy of Paul Revere’s engravings. We had a 2nd edition of John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony. We had books we loved, first edition of 99th, we loved our books.
We read these books. They did not sit on the shelves gathering dust. Well, perhaps some of my psychology books did but the statistics ones had a life. We are not as bad as some but if went anywhere in our house before it burned, or in other houses where we have lived, every room has an untidy stack of books and magazines. I cannot ever seem to keep them neat looking. Finally I gave up. If you can find a place to sit while you read a book that is what counts.
Reading has given way to writing for both of use. We have both published professional books as well as writing in this blog. The transition from reading to writing was so easy and natural that we cannot truly articulate when it happened. I can make a correltino with the point in time when I moved from reading what used to be called dime-store novels to the classics and biographies and other better written words. I believe that is the moment when the writing started to be writing even though it had not found a page to be on yet.
Writing is as permanent. It can survive minimum. Writing is ephemeral, words disappearing in a nanosecond with a delete key. Words always have a place in the world. Even though we will never be able to gather again the books that were in our collection we will always have the echo of its words and the lessons they bring. We have the words they used to teach us to write.