Are you a reader?
About a year ago I ran a few polls on a couple of writing sites that pertained to reading habits. I won’t mention the name of the sites, but I will say that they are reputable freelance writing sites where I have come to know some great writers, some good writers, and some who do it as just a hobby. And this is not to say that even if you are doing it as a hobby that you can’t be a great writer.
My polls asked the participant what they did most: read or write. I also asked about how much and how often the reading and writing was done, and I asked about individual favorites such as your favorite top 10 books.
What? You don’t read?
I had some great fun and insight with the polls. I was inspired to read a couple of different books through recommendations that were inspiring and I gave some recommendations as well from which I have received good feedback. All in all the polls were profitable and I gleaned some interesting information, but there was one thing I came away with that I was not expecting; the revelation that some of the folks whose work I had read were not readers.
Yes, it’s true. There weren’t many—only a handful out of a few dozen responses—but there were a few who said they either hardly ever read or that they never read at all. I was surprised by these comments. I could understand loving to read but having no desire to write, but it never entered my mind that someone could love to write and yet not be a reader. How is this possible? Wouldn’t that be kind of like joining a yacht club but hating being on the water?
Let me pause a second and say it is not my intention to ridicule anyone. What I’m hoping to do is inspire anyone who might be in the category I mentioned above.
Personally, I read for two reasons, and fortunately I enjoy them both. For me, reading is wonderful entertainment—more so than movies or television could ever be—but it is also educational.
Reading is schooling even when you are not in school. I could write an entirely separate blog on the benefits of reading when it comes to learning, but the educational part I want to focus on is that part that will help the aspiring writer. I don’t care how many creative writing classes you’ve taken, how many writing tutorials, writing groups, or instruction you have received, none of it can come close to the knowledge you will get from reading.
If you don’t believe me…
“Writing is a difficult trade which must be learned slowly by reading great authors; by trying at the outset to imitate them; by daring them to be original and by destroying one’s first productions.” ~Andre’ Maurois~
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” ~Stephen King~
The End—or—Happily Ever After?
And that is a question only I can answer, and I can only answer it through the countless journeys I have concluded at the end of a tale. Without having read, how would I know how to wrap up a story? How could I pull you in with a captivating beginning; hold you in with a meaningful middle?
So far, I have read 17 books this year by the likes of, Ray Bradbury, J. K. Rowling, Stephen King, Harper Lee, and F. Scott Fitzgerald to name a few. I can’t imagine an existence in which I never had the pleasure of meeting Scout Finch, The Great Gatsby or Roland Deschain. And I certainly can’t imagine how I could create a story as I write my novel without having first immersed myself in other stories of literature.
If you write for the fun of it, if it is something you do as a hobby, then by all means, enjoy yourself. If you don’t like to read—that’s your loss. But I would like to emphasize that if you have any aspiration to be a serious writer, you must read! If you intend to spend an hour writing—spend an hour reading as well. It will increase the quality of your work and make it much more desirable for a reader. And isn’t that why you write?
Since I began this blog referring to a poll I took I am going to list 10 of the best books I have read. Some of them are classics and some of them just happened to tickle my fancy. Either way, there are books on this list that if read can and will make you a better writer.
(Some of these are series but I will list them as one)
1 Lord of the Rings Trilogy
2 To Kill a Mockingbird
3 Grapes of Wrath
4 The Dark Tower Series
5 Crime and Punishment
7 The Exorcist
8 The Shining
9 The Once and Future King
10 Silence of the Lambs
Honorable Mention: Every other Stephen King book not listed here.
This has been the written opinion of a reader.
Until we meet again, Wayne.