What are you reading?
Note I didn’t ask what you’re writing, which might be the obvious question on a blog like this.
The reason for my question is because October is National Book Month—a time to honor and celebrate the book.
One of the key ingredients of advice to aspiring writers is to read. The neophyte might then ask, what am I to read? Does it mean how-to books? Books written by the advisor? What?
Personally, I’d say a writer should read the types of books he or she wishes to write. Most would-be writers are already readers. Inspired by the books they read for pleasure or edification, they strive to emulate, feeding both an innate need and a desire to share their thoughts and imaginings with others.
What moves a person to become a writer or engage in other creative activities is a matter for the psychologist and not our interest here. What is obvious is not every person who loves to read becomes or wants to become a writer. What is also obvious is the person who wants to write will eventually do so, regardless of advice or lack thereof.
I’ve never met a writer who wasn’t a reader. I think most of us would agree it was love of reading that first stimulated our desire to write. How, then, should a writer read? The answer, of course, is alertly. No writer worth his/her salt should ever read without a notebook at hand.
As Dumas put it a long time ago: Writing can not be taught; it can only be learned. One learns, initially, by reading. Anything you read will influence your writing style, either consciously or subconsciously. That’s why many novelists refrain from reading while working on a book. However, it has been found that reading good writing can provide the impetus for recharging the creative juices when you’re stalled or suffering a block. Even junk can be beneficial, but if you want to do creative writing, then you should read the best writing available. You can improve your style, your language and rhythm by the subconscious influence of good literature.