Wednesday, March 14, 2012
What am I talking about? The idea that some people propagate that reading is bad for your writing.
It doesn't make much sense, but many people that call themselves readers actually think this way. In fact, a family member told me recently about a Facebook post they'd come across - a friend looking for good book recommendations - where someone had commented along the lines of
"I'm a writer, therefore I don't read much."
Seems shocking to me, but I've seen it before. It's the equivalent of saying:
I'm a lifeguard, but I don't like to swim.
I'm a teacher, but I don't like kids.
I'm a police officer, but I don't like guns.
It's not that you still couldn't do these things with those attitudes. It's that you can't do them effectively.
It's not that you can't be a writer if you don't read. It's that you can't be an great writer if you don't read.
Why do some writers feel that reading is bad for their craft? Truthfully, I don't entirely understand their side of the argument, but I think it has something to do with some of the following points:
1. They think reading similar books will kill their original ideas
2. They think reading requires too much time, which they could spend writing
3. They think there isn't enough quality literature out there that could stand up to their own skills (I know that sounds snobbish, but someone actually told me that once!).
What I'm not trying to do is be critical of those that hold this opinion. However, I believe people, in general, don't read enough these days, and as writers, who thrive on readers actually reading our work, we need to work to change that.
So here is why great writers read:
1. To set an example
2. To support other authors - we are all in this together!
3. To learn from the best and the worst (yes, you can gain something by reading a book that is poorly written)
4. To engage our minds in healthy, creative escapism, essential to our growth and positive well being.
5. To learn more about our world, and beyond.
6. To strengthen and refine our ideas, and plotting, and characters .... this list could go on.
7. Because reading books is what convinced us we wanted to write them in the first place.
This is in no way an exhaustive list. I'd love to hear what you think: why should great writers read?