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.