There is an undercurrent of sadness here at 4.23 world headquarters this week. News that Sam Shepard had died hit hard. I’ve been an enormous fan of the depth and breadth of his talent since I started reading his plays back in college. I couldn't not watch him in “Days of Heaven.” He was my first writer crush.
And while this all seems like a heartfelt little divergence from the usual “Well Said Wednesday” fare about being the writer your business needs you to be, it is not.
Being a good writer is helped along enormously by being a good reader. Genre doesn’t matter. In fact, I believe the more widely you read, the more you’re able to learn from it. Yes, I crack open and learn from business-focused titles like “Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small” by Nick Westergaard (a satisfyingly quick and useful read.) But I also read Sherman Alexie. Emma Straub. Elvis Costello. (This post would get long and ponderous if I continued. You get the picture, right?)
I read marketing how-tos and I read fiction how-tos. I read fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays, film scripts and song lyrics. There are lessons in voice and clarity and audience and the heart of what your audiences need to hear from you everywhere. Everywhere. You just have to stay open to them.
“I’m still very much a believer in the spontaneity of certain kinds of writing.
But then you have to eventually, when you’re writing a long play,
make adjustments along the way.
All kinds of adjustments.”