"An Itty Bitty Column on Writing" by Mindy Phillips Lawrence
From Sharing with Writers (Carolyn Howard-Johnson)
March 25, 2009
When I was in college (the first time), I swore what I considered an everlasting oath to study American literature and authors only. My upbringing had a hand in this decision along with the fact that my English professor who was so instrumental in my development taught American lit at that time. What I didn’t realize was that decision locked me into study of a certain range of thought, excluding other ideas from a more expansive world. I had narrowed myself. It has taken me decades to see where reading from a greater world of literature, writing and philosophy can expand what I know in a beautiful way.
I began to study languages in 1995, taking two years of Spanish, a year of Italian and began Portuguese when, unfortunately, my professor died mid-semester with no replacement (neither as an instructor nor as a person). I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, in Spanish. I picked up Lorca, Paz and others and begin to learn about their work.
Now I have branched out to other countries. I am reading Salman Rushdie, V.I. Naipaul. Doris Lessing, J.M. Coetzee, and Arundhati Roy. I plan to expand even more.
What has this done for my writing? It has enhanced my ability with words immeasurably. The beautiful phrasing and description in Naipaul’s work has seized my soul. It SAYS something. Everything connects to some larger truth. It’s where I want to go with my work. Plain and simple, I want to write with a purpose. Reading current world literature has expanded my ability to write about that purpose as well as defining the purpose itself.
I want to encourage you to step outside your reading and writing box and EXPAND what you know. Grasp ideas from other cultures, faiths and philosophies. You don’t have to agree with them. Not at all. What you have to do is learn from them in order to deepen your base of ideas and, therefore, your writing.
I have mentioned only a few writers from a limited number of countries in the links below. Go to the Internet, your local library or a good bookstore and expand this list of authors to begin your adventure. Drink deeply and often. Your writing will deepen as your thoughts do.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez