A Good Walk/Book Spoiled

I photographed these irises while on the golf course on Saturday. It was the one sunny day when we could actually be outdoors out of a long stretch of rainy and cool, breezy days. The flowers also distracted me from my first golf game of the year, which is filled with moments of great hope (sinking a chip and a very long put and a few great drives) balanced by the realities of my actual level of play (3-putt anyone?) Golf is just that kind of game, and, in my case, it always makes sure that I come back by letting me play like I know what I’m doing on the last hole.

Mark Twain is credited with saying that “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” But apparently that’s not likely. Here’s the scoop from Quote Investigator:

“In 1904 the saying was attributed to a popular novelist named Harry Leon Wilson who used a cleverly expanded version of the jape. Wilson employed a rhetorical device called reversibility to augment the humor [HW1]: Some of his friends have been trying to induce him to play golf, but he refused. He makes the following unique definition of golf:  ‘Golf has too much walking to be a good game, and just enough game to spoil a good walk.'”

Writing has as many challenges as a golf game. The equipment often needs improving, you need to practise, you need to experiment and try new techniques to succeed, you need patience, and mental and physical discipline, and it can take a long time to get to the level that makes you feel confident when you approach that first tee. But like golf can spoil a good walk, can writing spoil a good read? As a writer, how do you approach your reading? Does a good book get spoiled because you are busy analyzing how the author built the plot, or developed characters, or used symbolism or theme? Or can you put your writing brain on hold and just enjoy reading?

I’m lucky enough that I can still be swept away by story and enjoy a good book. But … there are times that being a writer can make me very critical of a novel. And that can be good. As I try to figure out what isn’t working for me in a particular story, I can store that as a cautionary piece of advice when I start to edit my own work. I’d love to know when you turn off or turn on your writer’s brain when you’re reading. Are their books that you would suggest to be read with the writer’s brain on because they have good writing lessons to teach?

Love to hear from you.

6 thoughts on “A Good Walk/Book Spoiled

  1. But don’t you just love to read a book that takes you so far past your expectations? The kind that, according to the cartoon/pic that’s been floating around, makes you look up and wonder how everyone around you can just go on living as if nothing has happened? 🙂

    Elizabeth Kostova’s books do that for me. I’m also reading Kay Kenyon’s series (Bright of the Sky…) right now, and in addition to the bizarre way her mind works, her rhetoric is mesmerizing.

    I have so little time to read right now. I’ve got only one more chapter to go on my diss, due next Thursday, am defending July 19, and just started a new job at NMU as the ESL Coordinator (!). But I always make time for your posts, Heather.


    • Wow, you are so busy! Congrats on the new job. Work can be hard to come by these days. Thanks for suggesting two authors that I don’t know. I’ll be checking them out at my local library today. Best of everything on the 19th!

  2. If it is a book about writing, the writer’s brain is on. However, the other book just have a little voice within saying, I would do this/I certainly wouldn’t have done that… 🙂

    • My critical reading thoughts generally run along the lines of “Where was the editor?” All traditionally published writers have one, but sometimes I don’t think they serve the author or the story as well as they should.

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