Monday, October 10, 2011

Writing in 140: Writers Read

If one more writer tells me they hate reading…

It’s hard for me to fathom how someone who wants to write would hate to read…or would have so many lame excuses for why they don’t read: I don’t want to mistakenly borrow from someone else’s work. I want to write MY story, not read someone else’s story. Reading is boring. Among other things, reading helps us to form critical opinions on what works and doesn’t work—for us—in writing. It helps us to see structure and format. It allows us to develop and cultivate that visual playground where stories form and grow—those stories of others and ultimately our stories. If not for the stories I enjoyed as a child, I would’ve never made the decision to become a writer. Reading kind of begets writing, don’t you think?
Writing in 140 is my attempt to say something somewhat relevant about writing in 140 words or less.

Shon Bacon is an author, doctoral candidate, editor, and educator. She has published both creatively and academically. Shon also interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment. Currently, Shon is busy editing, writing, and pursuing her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University.

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  1. Shon, I love this powerful little post. I have turned away potential clients because they made the mistake of admitting to me, during our initial phone contact, that they don't read. One such conversation went:

    "I don't read, but I did read a Robin Cook novel one time and thought I could do it."

    I said, "No you can't."

    Not reading, for a writer, is wrong on so many levels! I can tell right away if a client reads enough, because reading is our number one way to absorb craft. And a non-reader's karma's all wrong: why would you expect the publishing industry to support you, when you don't support it?

  2. Shon ... you aren't wrong ... reading IS critical ... but for some those who don't read I offer this defense ... which could be applied to books. In the movie Humoresque, John Garfield's character, virtuoso violinist Paul Boray, is asked if ever attends concerts by other artists. His answer is something like, "No, I never attend concerts because the bad ones bore me and the good ones make me jealous."

  3. Re: "I don’t want to mistakenly borrow from someone else’s work"

    I am guilty of that one :-)

    However, I just couldn't imagine NOT liking reading. Reading is what lead me to writing. Sort of an unbreakable bond for me and reading. We love each other dearly.

  4. Wonderful reminder, Shon. Like everyone else, I cannot imagine a writer not reading.

    Christopher, even though Boray says he did not attend performances by other artists, to learn his craft he had to immerse himself in music. I really don't think there is any form of creativity that does not stem from a love of the art form.

  5. Isn't it a bit like saying, "I'm a brain surgeon, but I never read the text book or took the class — or served an internship or a residency"? Scary!

  6. Great post, Shon. Reading also helps you understand what you don't want to write. I'm reading a series right now. They're good, but the "formula" is so clear that I know I will soon get bored with it. By understanding that, I'm learning. I also, of course, learn from authors and books that teach me things I do want to do in my own work.

  7. I heard somewhere that more people write poetry than read it. I was one of the people writing it and not reading it until I took a stand: now I read poetry not only to improve my own, but as an homage to other poets.

    I mean, I want people to read what I write, so I should return the favor (maybe I do believe in karma after all?). :)

    -Ha, Kathryn mentioned karma too. I totally agree.

  8. Thank you all for commenting on the post! :-D

    You know, Christopher, if a client told me something like what Boray said, I would provide start probing deeper, asking what it was about the "bad" concerts that bored them, what it was about the "good" concerts that made them jealous, and then how those things manifest themselves (or don't) in their own writing. Many of my clients are pretty fresh-faced in writing, so that comment wouldn't settle with me too well. LOL

  9. I was in the midst of a lively discussion on Joe Konrath's blog, when a guy popped in to comment that he's a writer who hasn't read a book in 20 years and hasn't suffered from it at all. I didn't know whether to laugh or slap him. I read for pleasure. I read to study structure. I read because I LOVE WORDS, and when they are assembled into handsome sentences, they take my breath away.

  10. As someone who has been bookworm as far back as can be recalled, I can't fathom not reading at all.
    I'm aware it must happen, but I just can't understand it. It's like coming across someone who doesn't like to drink (and not in the alcohol sense). Just plain perplexing.

  11. I know, right? I always wanted to say that ;) and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. All true - reading is a teaching/learning experience, just like listening to good music, and trying to play as well, hones the skills of the writer. Being bored, being envious, and everything in between serves to inform us. It's hardly a waste of time.

  12. Shon, I agree with you 100 per cent! To me, reading and writing are two sides of the same coin. I simply cannot imagine not doing both. Thanks for your concise and succint post!

    Resources For Writers

  13. When I think about some of my favorite stories and those lines that sing off the page and make me all giddy and breathless, I have never thought, "Damn, I'm so jealous. I could never write like that." Like when I hear about my friends doing well, a good story, one that just makes me happy, often fills me with the thought, "I want to write like this," and it pumps me up to in fact try to write as good as that.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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