Learning from the Greats

Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl

I don’t indulge in five-star dining very often because of the cost. But on the rare occasions when I can enjoy that kind of food, I really, really enjoy it. Great chefs are called great for a reason.

Similarly, I don’t always read books that I’d rate five stars. If the average title earned that honor, it would be meaningless, and I only give five stars to the truly stellar books. But when I do read a great book, I really, really enjoy it. The great authors have, by and large, earned their reputation.

Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China

True, there’s the question of personal taste. Hemingway’s considered one of the greats, but I never particularly cared for his writing, whereas my favorite authors (Athol Dickson comes to mind) don’t always make the “Best” lists.

Most of us writers will never be great, but shouldn’t we each strive to be the best we can? Awhile back I read a comment by an indie author posting to a group discussion who said, “I just sent my book off today. It stinks, but it’s time to get started on the next one.” Why would a writer be content to publish a book which, by his own

Great Smoky Mountains
Great Smoky Mountains

admission, stinks? Does he wonder why indie authors are, or at least have been until recently, held in such low esteem?

There are differences between eating at five-star restaurants and reading five-star books. The biggest one is the cost; a great book is no more expensive to read (especially if you use the public library) than pulp fiction. But it’s a great deal more nourishing.

You know what happens to your body when you eat junk food, right? Fatty fiction has a similar effect on you brain — and if you’re a writer, on the development of your craft.

Great Scott
Great Scott

I suppose the same principle holds true in any endeavor. A serious artist studies the work of the masters. An architect, a tailor, a French hornist, a photographer, an ice fisherman — anyone interested in improving his skill at his chosen endeavor would be advised to pay attention to what others have done before.

100StephenKingBooksPDFThat’s why I recently started reading The Shining by Stephen King. I’d previously found King to be a superb writer, and someone recently recommended it as his best, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I think it’s the third book he ever published (or thereabouts), and the style is a bit dated. I doubt, for instance, he uses so many adverbs these days. I don’t care for some of the language, and I can’t say I really love the story. But I tell you what — that man has a wonderful way with words. I enjoyed one section so much I was going to copy it here and share it with you, but I decided not to because I’m too lazy. So, sorry, you’ll just have to wonder what it was.

Some Christian writers are reluctant to read secular books because they’re not comfortable with the language (as in the case of Stephen King’s work) or they’re concerned about the possibility of questionable content. I’m not here to tell other people what they should or shouldn’t read. But I do believe we grow taller from walking among the trees.

 

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2 thoughts on “Learning from the Greats

    1. LOL. The mark of a good writer — nightmares. I’m only about halfway done so I haven’t gotten to the scariest parts yet. And I’ve been taking it in small doses.

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