Reading versus Writing 2

Reading is both an awful pitfall and a wonderful asset for the writer. And I’m not talking here about research, or reading the dailies every morning. I’m talking about the creative fiction you read and how it relates to your writing of it.

Everything you do in this life, all your experiences and encounters, will influence your writing. And rightly so. You’re a human being I suspect, and that’s just how we function.

Reading is one of your life experiences. It’ll impact your writing both long term and short term. The immediate effect is stronger and more clearly linked to the source material than when it’s had a chance to filter through some time and other life happenings. In my opinion it’s only then that it takes on a flavour called you. Others differ on this point.

Some writers I know actually use this as a technique. They read the same type of material they want to write, even going as far as to read the works of their writing heroes in an effort to write more like them. It stinks. It’s lazy and derivative and a poor substitute for real creativity. We already have the original, what do we need you knocking off copies for?

Read because you’re empassioned it, not because you want to see how other writers before you handled the same story telling problems. The worst thing about using reading this way is the lack of contact with the process. In fact, this is the barbed hook hidden in the easy meal. You don’t know how much the author sweated over a piece by reading it. Or what it cost them in time, nerves, or liver damage. And why would you want to?

You climb the mountain by climbing it, not by gaping in awe at photos taken from the top of it. The photos can inspire you to climb, but they can never be a map. The error in thinking is believing the path that you find is any less valid than those who have gone before you.

Now stop poring the Polaroids and start climbing …

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