Ahem, as you know, I've been doing my own version of NaNo, in which I read as many novels as I can this month. I'm...a little behind at the moment, but I am determined to keep going! Because, as always, reading has helped me write.
This is our topic today, and HWS member Jadi has sent me some thoughts I'd love to share:
King Stephen, um, Stephen King says, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."I've read Stephen King's memoir not too long ago. I didn't agree with everything, I won't lie. But the reading thing is almost non-negotiatable. Earlier this year (I was reading my first SK novel, actually), I almost got into an argument with a guy that said reading isn't that important."Do you write?" I asked him. I thought that surely a real writer would know better.He said that you should discover it on your own. Wing it.I almost said, "Well, you must not be very good," but another guy in the room defended the readers' case against him. It was probably for the best that I didn't say anything more.No part of the writing process other than the writing itself is as important as reading. Not research, not attending conferences. Reading is the literary gas that fuels your writing car. Without it, you can't go very far. For those of you that started writing because of reading, it will remind you why you love to write. Reading is magical, just as magical as writing is. It's a great cure for writer's block. Period.It may also help you with an area you're struggling with. If you're struggling with a certain area, partner up with a friend who knows a book that shines in that area. You shouldn't copy their style, but you can get an example of what it's supposed to sound/read like.Your favorite book was once a crappy first draft too and reading it shows you what it can become.
I'd just like to add a hearty "Amen!" to this. Reading is so, so important. I know that many of us worry about accidentally copying or being too influenced by another's style, etc. But to that I say, "Is that such a bad thing?"
I lived in the art room in high school. I took every art class my school offered. My art teachers? They didn't tell me to just wing it, to draw straight from my imagination so as not to be influenced by any other artist or style. No, we copied a lot. We made displays to replicate on paper. We had models for figure studies. We studied masters, copied masters, in order to learn established techniques.
Why? Because just like in any field, you can't break the rules until you know the rules. How do you learn the rules? By studying. In writing, that should include a great deal of reading.
Reading is an essential tool in your education as a writer. Don't be afraid of it! Use it! Enjoy it! Reading teaches you what works and what doesn't. It teaches you what you like and what you don't. It really can fix writer's block. It helps you find your style, not mimic, trust me. It inspires you to do better. And, yes, sometimes it reassures you that you are good enough to get published.
In short, reading (especially this month) has made me a much happier writer! I've set up a reading room in the club house in honor of this post. It has comfy chairs and a hot chocolate dispenser. Feel free to enjoy, and learn from, a good book.