A few nights ago, I watched the film “Midnight in Paris” for my first time. While this is not a comparative movie review, I will compare this particular movie to a delicious coffee frappe—completely unnecessary for a daily meal, yet completely sweet and perfect nonetheless. But, what particularly stood out in this movie was one certain character and scene involving the infamous Ernest Hemingway. In this certain scene, Hemingway talked about not reading his fellow writers’ written works because writing is a competitive business.
This made me realize something—I’ve been reading like a writer. Silly, huh? Hear me out first and then tell me that I’m not making any sense. Now, reading like a writer is like when you eat medicine—it’s good for you, only when you eat the required amount. But, what does that mean? …Reading like a writer? Well, maybe giving my own personal story will help relate this concept. Skimming through an ocean of novels, I usually choose one of my favorites. Maybe, in this case, I would choose Fitzgerald (staying right in line with the “Midnight in Paris” theme). Usually, I would slobber and sit in awe over his brilliant and majestic sense of language (an understatement entirely!), but there will always be a voice in the back of my mind—my writer’s voice. On constant repeat, my writer’s voice will slip in comments like “Look at this incredible author, could you really achieve something like that?”, “Does your syntax compare…never!”, “Read his imagery.”, “He certainly thought of that story idea before you.”
Now, fellow writers, you all must admit that sometime in your life you have heard this ominous writer’s voice…you could even call it the Jiminy Cricket of all the writing Pinocchios. Constantly, as I would read, this voice would be replaying over and over again. My reading even came to the point of making me a nervous wreck. I lost joy in the story and saw literature only as a means to perfection. But, watching “Midnight in Paris” made me aware of my problem—I was reading like a writer. I tried to remember a time when my writer’s voice was silent and mute. When was the last time I had read a book with wide eyes ready to guzzle in all the splendor and imagination contained within literature? Salman Rushdale once said, “literature is where I go to explore the highest and lowest places in human society and in the human spirit, where I hope to find not absolute truth, but truth of the tale, of the imagination, and of the heart.” I saw myself journeying on the road to successful writing, while neglecting to bring that love of writing that got me there from the start. Sure, Fitzgerald, Dickinson, Frost, and even Hemingway were all top-notch writers, even masters of literature. And, yes, of course I aspire to write like them. However, I can’t let that aspiration reach a level of bitter competition—the kind that Hemingway (in the movie) mentioned.
An even greater question is discovered—Where would I even be without these writers? These writers are some of the reasons that I have such a love for literature. If it weren't
for great authors, then I would have never seen “real toads in imaginary gardens” (Marianne Moore’s reference) or seen a lion teach majestic truths through Narnia. These writers introduced me to Rip Van Winkle, Mr. Darcy, Katniss Everdeen and Schindler. Those pens allowed me to understand the oppression of the Uglies, but also allowed me to rejoice with Frodo when he finally destroyed the ring. These authors are the ones who inspire me daily to find a pen, paper, and in this case, a laptop. And, then all these realizations concluded themselves into one powerful statement—I needed to approach reading like a reader, someone who has had a feast of words, concepts, stories, and thoughts laid before her… all previously prepared by the great storytellers themselves.