It's okay to skip the reading.


I’m writing you now from misty Newfoundland – this weekend I will be a lucky guest at the Winterset in Summer Festival. This has been a summer full of readings: last week I was in BC, reading at the Sunshine Coast Festival. In July, I was part of the Lakefield Literary Festival, and before that, I read at the Elora Writers’ Festival.

I’ve been so fortunate on this tour. The audiences are full of engaged listeners, people who love books, people who are passionate about writing.

And yet, I’m writing you today to tell you this: It’s totally okay if you don’t to go to readings all the time.

I probably shouldn’t say this, but the truth is, I feel most inspired to write when I make time to see other kinds of art.

This summer I stood in the long line to see the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met, in NYC. Even with that crowd, the show threw me down. I had my notebook out the whole time.

I spent a long time learning how to construct clothes, McQueen said, which is important to do before you can deconstruct them.

I wrote that down because it helped me understand how to build a story. Then I got this one:

I find beauty in the grotesque. Like most artists, I have to force people to look at things.

Bang. Exactly.

For the rest of that day and night, I felt so inspired and turned on by the show and by what it taught me about my own work as a writer that I had my notebook out in taxis, in restaurants, in the hotel lobby. The show had reminded me how to see.

Through this whole summer of readings, I have not felt this way.


Go to a concert.
Listen to harmony and rhythm.
See a play.
Pay attention to the stage lighting.
Look at art.
Get into the language of texture and colour.
Watch dance.

How does movement create emotion?

Let yourself take a break from all of those literary events. The literary events won’t go away — they’ll be there later. If you’re looking for inspiration, going outside your genre can be a better way to find your true creative sparks.

Remember to bring your notebook with you.


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This addition was a welcome surprise, a tiny treat of inspiration, a practical suggestion, that came at just the right time. Thank you. Susan
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I completely agree, here, about being inspired by other forms of art. A lot of my favorite stories that I've written were inspired by certain songs. By the lyrics, by the rhythm, by the emotions they triggered. And I've got online albums of images that I feel I could write from. While I have been inspired by others' writing many times, what I always seem to go back to, when I need to write, is a good piece of music.
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