Yesterday, Chuck Wendig posted about how to read like a writer. A useful and entertaining read, as are pretty much all of his posts, but it also got me thinking about the flipside:
Are there writers out there who aren’t readers?
Let me clarify something here. I don’t mean readers in the theoretical sense of “yes, books are awesome, but I don’t have time for them right now, as I’m focusing on my writing/schoolwork/video games/etc.”. I mean people who actually read books. Lots of them. For fun!
(As an aside, I think there is a similar difference between theoretical writers – “I have the swanky story ideas, it’s awesome! Oh, but no, I don’t really feel like writing” (and they proceed not to for years) – and those who actually do write on top of wanting to. It’s the difference between desire and action, and unfortunately here, desire doesn’t mean very much)
If so, I haven’t met any. Most of those people who were writers (as they described themselves) but didn’t really read were not that serious about their writing, either. Serious about the idea of it, sure, but not the practice. I just don’t get how you could like writing, how you could like telling stories, but not like reading the stories other people have told.
Plus, how do you know how to write if you don’t read other writing? Sure, there is learning in the doing of a thing – a lot of it! – but it’s a slow feedback loop. You write a bunch of stuff, show it to a few people maybe, or maybe no one at all. You give your own criticism, but if your tastes are primarily shaped by your own writing with very little outside perspective, you probably won’t get very far (unless you’re a prodigy, and if so, why are you listening to any of my advice anyway?!).
It would be like trying to learn math by developing calculus yourself. A good learning experience, maybe, but way more work than you need to do. There are people out there good at what you want to do. The results of their skill are available cheap, and sometimes they even give instructions on how to write. Why wouldn’t you listen?
Plus, books are pretty neat-o.
And on that note, I’m doing a pretty good job of increasing my literary input, not just output. I’ve finished 4-5 fiction books (and am close on another – Scalzi’s Old Man’s War), 2-3 writing books, and 2 programming books this year thus far. Not a huge amount, I know, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. I have a pile of books waiting for me after that, which is exciting.
So yay reading!