FEEDING YOUR FICTION: HOW TO READ AS A WRITER

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesdays, where I post (you guessed it) tips on writing every Wednesday at 5:00 PM ET. This week’s topic:

FEEDING YOUR FICTION: HOW TO READ AS A WRITER

Happy December, everyone! It’s hard to believe it’s here already. And instead of stressing about finishing work by the end of the year, we’re going to be discussing something a little more relaxing today. =)

It is commonly heard and said that good writers read. It is also said that writers not only read…they read A LOT.

Well, I don’t know about you, but hearing that is encouraging, inspiring, and also terrifying and intimidating. I was an English major in undergrad, and also in grad school. In grad school, the common pace for one class, not to mention the others taken at the same time, was one novel a week.

Now, you may be the fastest reader in the world, but this was a real struggle for me to keep up with. Many weeks I would read about ¾ of the book, and have to skip to the end simply because I could not keep up.

And I’m here to tell you that that’s okay. When people say good writers read, or good writers read a lot, they don’t define what they read or how much. A lot for a fast reader might be a few books in a week. For me, it’s reading a book every few weeks, or even one a month, or even less often that that, depending on what else is going on in my life.

But the important thing is that I am at least reading every week. I try to read a little every day, even if it’s just a few pages between things. My days are pretty full, but yesterday I found time to read at an appointment, and again before bed.

Thus this week’s post is going to cover

WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO READ – FOR YOUR WRITING AND YOURSELF

FOR YOUR WRITING

Quote from Stephen King that reads, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."

I don’t know about you, but something about this quote rubs me the wrong way. Not horribly so, but just a tad. And why? Because it’s relentless. And it should be, because writing as a professions is hard work, and you have to have the tools to do it. And what are some of the best tools? Other books! They feed our flame, so to speak.

The reason this rubs me a little bit the wrong way is not because of the words, but the way I interpret them. My brain immediately takes me to being self-conscious about the English major who is a slow reader, who gets mad when people say I must read fast, and other things that are steeped not in what Mr. King is saying, but rather my own experiences.

In order to move past that, I have to be professional. If you’re going into writing as a profession, this is the most important thing you can do.

Reading feeds your fiction.

If I read other books, it is not only a flower field of ideas, it is like reading the example section of a How-To book. I get to see and experience firsthand, as a new reader, what does and does not work. Reading becomes not only for pleasure, but also for examination.

And this is a good thing! Your work is also pleasurous. Congratulations! You’re an artist and a writer.

FOR YOURSELF

It is widely accepted within and without the academy that reading breeds empathy—this means it makes it easier for you to imagine yourself in scenarios of other people in real life, not just in the fictitious works you read. This is what allows us to imagine an impoverished life, or a rich one, and to feel sympathy for not just the good guy, but the bad one, as well.

Reading is also a good habit to get into before bed—it keeps your eyes on paper (I am specifically talking about paper books), which is better for normalizing your sleep schedule, as opposed to looking at screens such as e-readers or our phones, which confuses our brain on a chemical level, which can make it harder for us to fall asleep.

It is also a way to get you time, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert. If you are looking to be alone, reading can be solitudinous. If you’re lonely and looking to surround yourself with people, reading is fulfilling.

BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER IS…

Don’t let reading become a chore. Don’t welcome that thought process into your life. If you used to love to read before college, don’t let one four-year period of your life ruin what you had done consistently for a lifetime before that. If you’ve been through even more schooling, remember why you read as a child, or even what you read. Something pulled you along, and I would advise you to welcome that into your life again.

Why?

Because reading is a unique experience. If you read a book as a child, it will likely have different meanings to you as an adult. And this is good, because it lets us keep on learning, and keep on experiencing.

As I said in one of my previous posts, you cannot write your best unless you go out and experience the world; one of the ways to do that is by reading.

In the writing profession, yes, reading and analyzing works for techniques and inspiration, dos and don’ts is important—but so is reading for pleasure. And chances are, if you are enjoying what you’re reading, the author is doing something right. Let yourself be visceral once and a while, because once you put the book down for a bit, the analytical side of your brain can then pick apart what made it so great. Try to relax into your book as you’re reading it, and analyze after.

So go ahead. I give you permission to be a child, so that you can then become the best kind of adult.

With Grace,

Alyssa Moore


You can also find Alyssa on Twitter: @alyssagracem

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