Not surprisingly, this blog is usually all about me. But frequent readers will know I begin every week by posting a book review. I’m a big reader, primarily of longer fiction, although I will slot in a novella every now and then when I’m coming off a previous longer read or when I’m asked to (most recently, Tracy Cembor’s Gaslight Carnival).
Some might ask why a blog that is ostensibly all about me and my writing should so prominently feature reviews of the writing of others (and sometimes even just the writing of others as guest posts).
The first reason is that my reviews are examples of my writing, as well as evidence of my ability to deconstruct a novel, which I think is also evidence of my ability to construct one. It also shows something of my editing ability. I provide the link to my blog when potential employers ask to see samples of my writing and editing ability.
The second is that writing and reading are so intrinsically linked that I don’t believe you can have one without the other. The idea that reading could exist without writing or that writing could exist without reading is nonsensical. Like the idea that speaking could exist without listening or that listening could exist without speaking. (Well, I suppose they could but they would be hollow experiences.)
And yet there are some writers out there who do little or no reading. I won’t shame these writers by naming them (mostly because I’ve encountered quite a few of them over the years and have chosen not to devote memory space to remembering their names) but some of the excuses I’ve heard include not having enough time, not wanting their own work to be influenced by what they might read and being disappointed by the quality of writing flooding the market so choosing to avoid it altogether.
When I first began writing in earnest, I was reading genre books, being left feeling unsatisfied and thinking to myself, “I can write better genre books than this.” That was over twenty years ago and not for one moment did I ever think about stopping reading altogether. For me, that would be a physical impossibility. Reading is something that I simply do, as natural to me as breathing. I don’t think about the environment I’m in or the process of making my lungs move to take in air and move again to expel it. I just do it. I’ve read the shampoo bottle in my shower hundreds of times. It’s down to the dregs now and it’s upside down and I still read it upside down every time I get in.
I understand the relationship between reading and writing will be different for everyone who writes. Reading and writing are not objective. Everyone brings their own perceptions to what they read and to what they write. Two people can read the same text and come away from reading it with two entirely different interpretations. Two people can be asked to write on a particular specific topic and the results will never be the same. Similar, perhaps, but never the same.
But for anyone out there who wants to be or is attempting to be a writer, here’s a small piece of advice. Make the time to read because it’s crucial to the never-ending learning experience of becoming a better writer. If you don’t want to be influenced by the writing of others, don’t read books that are similar to what you are trying to write. If you write fiction, read biographies. Or if you write romance, read crime. And if you’re disappointed by the quality of the writing out there in the market, take it as a challenge to show others how it’s done. Just keep reading.
To continue the theme of the writing of others, here’s a selection of posts from a few of the people who follow this blog that I thought were pretty good reading.
Forcing the Muse to Visit
The Ninth Life by KL Register
Why Do You Write?
Writing. Life. Stuff. by Kelly Teitzel
I Don’t Ask For Help
Supposed to Be