What I Learned About Writing From Taking a Long Time to Read a Book

I picked up a book in Spain over three years ago because it looked interesting. I thought, “I’m proficient enough in Spanish, and this sounds like a fun action-thriller that will be a breeze.”

It was not a breeze. I am not proficient in Spanish (though my father said he didn’t think it was a very good translation, so perhaps that didn’t do me any favors). But I persisted, and I finally finished reading David Golemon’s Leyenda, translated by Ester Mendía Picazo.

leyenda
Leyenda by David Lynn Golemon, Translated by Ester Mendía Picazo

I can’t quite give a thorough review, because since I was so focused on understanding the language, it was easy to get lost in untangling characters and what each one did. I think that may have just been the nature of the book.

There was such an extensive ensemble and multiple converging storylines that it swirled in dizzying action and adventure. What I can say is that it reminded me of a cross between National Treasure and The Da Vinci Code, so it was a fun read.

But this post isn’t about giving a review. It’s about relishing in my accomplishment of finishing my first ever book entirely in Spanish. It’s not my first language, so to say that I read 415 pages in my second tongue, especially when it heavily dealt with a topic of which the vocabulary was completely new to me, is something to be proud of.

I had moments where I thought about quitting and saying that I can’t read in Spanish. But I didn’t do that. Instead, I took my time. I read voraciously some nights, as I was enthralled by the story. And other nights I read one paragraph or one page. That’s okay. There was no pressing need to finish the book in a timely manner (clearly). It took three and a half years, but I finished.

I think it’s important that I took on this endeavor, because it taught me an important life lesson. It may take many years and more time than anticipated, but it’s possible to finish something that seems impossible. Weirdly enough, completing this challenge I set for myself, even three years later, has renewed my energy to finish my next challenge (which I’ve also been working on for four years now): writing my first novel.

I’ve been working on writing my book on and off, writing when I have time. It’s felt like a hobby that I’m doing to pass the time, and like it’s something that I’ll never finish. Sometimes I write a chapter and think, “Okay, that’s the next chapter. Who knows when this will be done.”

But reading a whole book in Spanish and getting to the end taught me that, yes, an end does come, even if it takes more time than I thought. I don’t feel like I’m writing for writing’s sake now. I finished Leyenda, so that means I can finish writing my book.

This all also coincides with the impending end of my master’s program. I see the end of each of these adventures as the closing chapters in my own book, but not as the end of my story. Some chapters are longer than others and take more time, but they do come to an end. And that just means I know I can accomplish these things and feel rejuvenated to start the next one.

I thought being a reader had taught me all it can at this point, but it turns out there’s still so much more that being a reader can teach me.

What have you learned about life as a reader? Let me know in the comments!

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