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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Read? While We're Still Alive?

Every so often, I'll hear a writer say something along the lines of "Well, I spend all my spare time writing.  I have no time to read."

Whenever I hear this, this is my reaction:

Do these writers not realize how absurd they sound?  What they are actually saying is this: "I care about putting down words for people to read, but I don't care about reading them myself." 

I would be willing to bet a large amount of money that before you started writing for fun, you had already spent many hours reading for fun.  (And if you're a writer who doesn't enjoy reading, just leave.  Please, save yourself and the rest of us the trouble.  Just go.)  You probably starting writing because of your love for reading.  It makes no sense to give that up. 

It's like that scene from How To Train Your Dragon, where they're standing around the dragon book.
Tuffnut: Wait, you mean, read?
Ruffnut: While we're still alive?
Snotlout: Why read words when you can just kill the stuff the words tell you stuff about?

In this scene, Snotlout (Yes: there is a person named Snotlout.  And David Tennant voices his dad,  Spitelout.) imparts a bit of wisdom on us without even realizing it.  Don't tell him; he'd be mortified.  Say his line out loud.  Sounds dumb, right? 

This is what happens to writers who never read.  While they probably won't come out sounding like morons, their writing will suffer.  You will keep releasing words from your system, but you won't be putting any back in.  And while words are not like a waterfall--if you cut off the river, water will stop falling over the edge--your writerly brain still needs word input. 

Think about it: how much sense does it make to be a painter who never looks at paintings?  A musician or composer who never listens to music?  An architect who never admires a building? 

Reading has so, so many benefits to the writer.  It shows examples of how to make something work.  It can give examples of what not to do.  Subconsciously, you'll pick up new styles of ways of putting together a sentence.  The benefits are endless, and in the end, the only drawback is that you'll have less time for writing.  But would you rather have more writing time with a literature-empty mind, or a little less time with a mind brimming with words and sentences and stories?  There really is no question.

Reading also gives you a sense of what's out there, in terms of other books.  The market is saturated with picture books about children being raised by giant squid, or teenage guys who turn into a moose every half moon?  You may want to head another direction.

And besides, it's been scientifically proven that reading makes you more awesome.*

*This fact can be verified by my personal experiences and a large sample of statistical data that exists in my imagination.

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  1. Unfortunately, I have the opposite problem - I read too much and don't spend enough time writing, lol. Great post, though - and I love the Sherlock gif and the How to Train Your Dragon quote. :D

  2. I'm right behind you. Reading is like research for writers. People shouldn't do jobs without constantly learning new things about their specialised subject. The writers of this world are lucky - we get to read as our market research, further learning and inspiration. What more could we possibly ask for? Also, the gif of John brightened up my morning. (:


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