On the Importance of Being a Reader

Still no review of Dragon Age 2 I’m afraid. This is largely because I’ve, well, started playing it again, but I’m sure that my second play through as a bisexual mage will add all sorts of nuances to my final verdict (I called him Theon in the end, rather than Spanky).

 

Instead I’ve been thinking about the importance of reading in regards to the process of writing. Lovely twitter peep @RozD has started a blog recently detailing her current challenge to read 100 hundred books (go here to check it out) and we briefly discussed the idea of reading as procrastination. But the truth is reading is an enormously important part of the writing process too. To be a writer, we are told, you must:

 

a) Write

b) Read

 

But, it’s a little tricksier than that I think. The actual physical act of writing, sitting your bum down and getting the words out, is obviously the key to being a writer. BUT, I am tempted to put reading on an equal footing. Firstly, if you don’t read, then why are you writing? If you don’t love books, then why do you want to make them? It sounds daft, but I have encountered people before who were rather in love with the idea of being a writer- on the surface it sounds cool, like you’re an eccentric lone wolf who drinks neat whisky and stares broodily out of windows whilst scribbling in a notebook*. But when I asked said people what their favourite books were and who they hoped to emulate, they would shuffle their feet and shrug and indicate that, well, they were only really interested in their own books. When they finally got around to starting them, that is.

      Also, without reading you have nothing to aspire to. Or, if you like, you won’t experience that snarky little rage that causes you to twirl your moustaches and think, “I could do better than this!” You would never be inspired, or informed, or enlightened by the simple marvellousness of the fiction that is available to us. If I hadn’t read Perdido Street Station, for example, I might still be labouring under the misapprehension that all fantasy had to look and sound a certain way. If I hadn’t read A Song of Ice and Fire I’d never have gotten a girl-boner for swords and written The Steel Walk (although I’m still unsure whether that was a good thing or a bad thing). The idea of writing without reading is incomprehensible. Mind-boggling. And so, when we spend hours giggling over Wodehouse or days dallying in the world of Jonathan Strange (as I have been doing lately) then we must not feel guilty, or that we are neglecting our writerly duties.

 

Because to write you have to a) write, and a) read.

 

*this is an accurate depiction of my life, obviously.

 

4 thoughts on “On the Importance of Being a Reader

  1. You are totally, absolutely on the money. You must read in order to write. Stephen King says 4-6 hours a day of “reading and writing” are required to get good – note he doesn’t separate the two, or suggest how to apportion the time between them.If someone ever says they write but don’t read, I’m immediately reminded of Garth Marenghi, who claims to be unique in having written more books than he has read!One thing that cannot be underestimate is how much a writer will LEARN from reading. In fact, I think you learn as much from reading as you do from the act of writing itself, so I’d take those 4-6 hours and split them straight down the middle.

  2. Absolutely! Although if a writer doesn’t actively *want* to spend large portions of their day reading then I would be worried anyway.

  3. Yup, yup, right you are. Reading is essential. To bad the same can’t be said for video games (I just spent the past 2 hours finishing Gears of War).

  4. Well, I’m sure there are plenty of reasons playing video games is also essential…. um. Let’s just assume there are lots of them, and carry on. :DActually, there are many games these days where story and world building are incredibly important and done very well, Dragon Age certainly being one of them. It’s one of the reasons I love it so.

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