I am not a reader.
This is a hard thing for me to admit, honestly. As a writer who is surrounded by so many who DO read ravenously, I feel like this aspect of myself hampers my ability. I feel like maybe I will never be a good writer because I'm not that person who grew up on a mountain of books, and I still don't read as often as I think writers are expected to.
That's not to say I didn't read as a child. I enjoyed most of the assigned reading I got in school. I had a few favorites of my own—The Chronicles Of Narnia, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, The Babysitter's Club, Dune, Kon Tiki (yes, for reals I was obsessed with that book in 9th grade). But I didn't read very much, honestly. I was a picky reader. I tried many novels and gave up on them because they didn't catch my interest. I remember specifically how people kept telling me to read The Hobbit, so I picked it up and started. I didn't get past the first chapter because I was all, "I don't care about this round door with the round knob in the exact center of the door!" (Interesting, though, that I still remember that description!)
So yes, there were years where the only reading I did was for school, which seems SHAMEFUL as a writer. But it's true. I was into a lot of different things growing up—language (Japanese and French), drama (Techies rule!), music (the flute), swimming, art and more art, video games, daydreaming, and hanging out with friends—books often fell to the bottom of the list.
And yet I always loved to write. The second I learned to make words I was writing stories. I wrote a story in Kindergarten that won a county award. When I learned the 5-paragraph essay in third grade, I was so in love with the idea that I would practice writing them just for fun. I would pick a topic, write my intro, my thesis, my three paragraphs, and my conclusion. It was AWESOME. Yes, I loved writing essays! That was even my job in college. I spent junior high writing books about the characters I drew. As a child, I played outside for hours making up wild stories, scripting plays and adventures for my friends. And let's not forget the angsty teen poetry. Good. Times.
My lessons in story came from different things. It came from Anime. It came from RPGs (Final Fantasy forever!). It came from movies and TV and comics. It came from reading scripture. It came from journaling my own life, from listening to my father tell me his life stories. Because storytelling is everywhere; there is something to learn from at every turn. You have to take advantage of all sources, especially if you aren't a natural reader.
But here's where I confess that reading IS important. As much as I wish I could say you don't have to read to be a writer, I can't. When I first started seriously writing (As in with the goal to be published and not just as a hobby), I started reading more than I had in a while. It helped my writing, plain and simple. It helped me learn about my genre and its expectations. It improved my prose and taught me what my voice was because I'd heard other voices. It taught me about building strong characters and solid plots in writing as opposed to screen or drawings. So if you don't read at all, don't take this post as an excuse to continue ignoring that TBR stack. While I don't read as much as other writers, I try. I always try. Try, try, try.
I guess this post is mostly for myself, because I feel better getting this out there. It's always something I feel like I've had to hide, not being a fanatic reader. But I'm starting to think it's okay, and that I can still be a writer even if I only read like one book a month...or sometimes less. And you can still be a writer, too. You just have to take story lessons from wherever you can get them.