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Reading and writing - A couple of tips and random thoughts

One of my favorite hangouts with my wife is Half Price Books, or basically any used bookstore with a good selection.  I have enjoyed reading for my entire life, and I have (thankfully) instilled this love of learning and reading in my own children, who are homeschooled. 


I actually learned to read at age two (true story).  My mom took me to see my grandmother in Corpus Christi for a visit around Christmas 1972.  I was two and several months old.  My mom said, "Jason can read now." 


Of course, my grandmother scoffed at the notion: "He has probably memorized the books that you have.  We'll see how he does with the books I have here."


Later, when my mom came to pick me up, my grandmother said simply, "You were right.  He can read."


This wasn't something my mom specifically set out to teach me when I was that little, but she did read to me a lot.  Since I don't remember learning to read, it feels like something that was just always there.


My mind gets bored easily, so I don't like to be anywhere very long with NOTHING to do.  I read voraciously, and I go through phases - sometimes I read nothing but non-fiction, sometimes only humor, sometimes fiction for months at a stretch.  I usually have at least three books that I am working on around the house or in the car.


The other night, when we were at the bookstore, I realized that many of the books that interested me had personal and intimate inscriptions inside the front cover:


"Dad - This book made me think of you.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  I love you!  Sarah"


"Tony - Happy graduation!  This is a classic book about making your way as a young person in this world, and I think many of the ideas are still true today.  Love, Aunt Linda"


One of my "finds" was a Kurt Vonnegut book with a handwritten note inside: "Catch 22 - Joseph Heller".  I realized that I had already read that particular Vonnegut book, so I moved on.


I got home and was motoring through Johnny Cash's autobiography, titled simply "Cash".  Around chapter three or four, I found something that made me feel sad.  It was an unlabeled baby picture.  It was a beautiful blond child, about three months old, sleeping soundly.  It made me think about the previous owner of the photo.  Did they notice that the picture was missing?  Perhaps it was a father who took this picture of his son along with him when he traveled.  Maybe they were estranged, and he had only this picture to remember his child.


As you can see, I have a pretty vivid imagination.  This is a skill that has served me well through the years, in my marketing, and, now, in my writing/blogging. 


I have had a number of people ask me over the past year where I come up with ideas for my blog posts.  Most of them are triggered by small things that happen around me.  As I approach 600 posts here on ActiveRain, I realized that I seem to always have a running mental list of possible topics.  Sometimes, they turn into posts, and sometimes they are altered substantially by the time I finish writing.  The rabbit trails in my mind are extensive and many are still unexplored. 


I never plan anything very well before I start writing - no outlines, just sort of a vague idea of what I want to get across.  I don't spend much time on the actual writing part.  I think I probably spend an average of 10-15 minutes, unless I have to do a lot of layout on a recap post.  The quick version of my writing seems to provide the best results.  If I overthink it, it comes out less interesting.  My primary advice for those of you who are trying to improve your writing skills is to be alert to your surroundings.  There are a lot of cool things happening that could serve as great topics.  Heck, I got featured once by using an old inside joke with my wife, and just yesterday I wrote a post that mentioned my friend's hemorrhoids.  Don't think too hard - just write.


Thanks for reading my rambling thoughts this afternoon!

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