Reading versus Writing 1

No topic could be more contoversial for the writer – especially for the newbie looking for a hand up. And every man and his dog has something to say on the matter, a good deal of which is erroneous and conflicting. Though some of it, admittedly, is outright idiotic.

So what’s all the heat about? The answer, funnily, is just one thing: how reading affects one’s writing (OK, it’s a big thing, no contest.)

Here’s one recipe for success I came across recently that’s so ludicrous I had to laugh (it was either that or cry). The secret to good writing = 4 to 6 hours a day of reading. God help us all. Who the hell has that sort of time on their hands? No-one that has a job, a significant other, a family, or social interests. That being the case, do I really want to read anything from this someone?

Better question, what would I do if I had 4 to 6 hours a day to spare? That’s easy. I’d write.

Reading won’t make you a good writer. Reading won’t make you into a writer if you’re not already one. All reading will do is make you well read. A beautiful and enriching thing if ever there was one – but it’s still not writing.

Here’s an analogy from the world of sport. The sprinter does squats in the gym as cross-training, not as a substitute for sprinting. And the best squatters in the world, the power lifters, are far from the best sprinters.

Think about it. You train the thing you want to be good at by DOING the thing you want to be good at. This is a truism because, well … it’s true. And yet how easy is it to find writing courses in which the content is primarily reading.

Before I forget, the above advice came from Stephen King. A crappier and richer writer never walked the planet. I guess he’s been cut off from his origins in that dark tower of his a little too long.

I’ll have more to say on this in time, but for now let me end with something simple. The writer is already a reader, the work before him, then, is to learn the art and the science of writing.

One Response to “Reading versus Writing 1”

  1. Four to six hours is a bit much, but reading has always inspired me to write. Seeing what other writers do pushes me a little harder to join their ranks. The trick is making sure I don’t emulate them, but rather use my own voice. Writers learn from not only experience, but each other. Sometimes I read something and admire how an author pulled it off or I’ll smirk and wonder how they got published. Either way, it makes me think carefully about how I construct any piece I write.

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