If I think of my summers as milestones, this one has been a season of both reading and writing milestones for me. I seem to have had more time to indulge in the luxury of reading, relatively guilt-free than anytime in my past. If my mother or father caught me reading when I was a child, he or she would immediately find something more useful for me to do to fill my time. Reading was for learning while in school, it was not to be indulged in as a pleasurable past time, except on Sunday. And then only when there were no visiting cousins to entertain, or all the kitchen chores done for the day.
In the late ’50s when I was still in high school, there was a science fiction drama series on television called The Twilight Zone. The host was Rod Serling, and he was so good at his lead-ins that it was almost impossible to imagine the show without him, or him without the show. A year or two back, there was an attempt to bring it back. Whether it was the writing, or because we’d become too sophisticated as a society in the intervening years to be able to sit back and suspend our disbelief, it’s hard to pinpoint why, but the venture failed.
I particularly remember one special episode out of many of the original series. It was called “Time Enough at Last.” Burgess Meridith played the role of a near-sighted bank clerk who never had the time to read as much as he wanted. Then, after becoming the sole survivor of a hydrogen bomb attack, not only was he left alone to read, but he had the whole town of bookstores and libraries all to himself. I won’t spoil the ending in case you get to watch it on re-runs someday, but it was sublime.
I’m sorry to admit now that I was turned off of writing nearly 50 years ago when I was around 8 or 9 by my sister, 6 years older. She sneaked a tablet I was writing on into the living room where the family was assembled and read out loud a story I was then working on. It was a mystery, “Murder at Midnight,” and had not progressed beyond a few paragraphs. All I remember of the plotline was that a body had been discovered in the early hours of the morning, the man had died around midnight, hence the title. I was so traumatized by her dramatic reading and the resulting laughter that I never wrote another story until 7th grade when Mrs. Guthrie talked me into helping her write an Operetta to be performed for the whole school (12 grades) in the school auditorium.
Nowadays I sometimes pause amid my gluttonous reading forays, and marvel that no one questions me about it. Same for the writing. I sometimes feel glued to my office chair and keyboard while writing my blog and contributing to another, The Elders Tribune, and marvel that no one seems to object. That English professor was right years ago when she compared writing to the old-time water pump. If the pump wasn’t used daily, it always had to be primed by pouring water down the shaft and vigorously pumping to get it started. After that the water flowed freely. If you write every day you’re always “primed” and ready to write.
I had just about decided, as I sat down to write this post, that if I had to choose which to do were I only to have time for one, it would be reading hands down. I’m so blessed that the question posed is hypothetical, as it occurs to me that one begets the other. Like Rod Serling without The Twilight Zone, or The Twilight Zone without Rod Serling, I can’t imagine reading and not writing.