Monday, September 05, 2011

The Right to Write Comes with a Need to Read

This is a derivation of one of last year's rants. In a forum, a new writer asked me how to make money writing. She'd only written in blogs and struggled to advance into other arenas. As is my practice, I told her to consider what she read, because she'd write best and stronger for those publications she enjoyed absorbing.

She said she didn't spend much time reading.

I don't know if she subscribes to the newsletters, and I hope she's not reading this (I mean, she did say she doesn't read, right?), but I literally dropped my head in my hands. How did I advise someone on writing who didn't read?

Writing means surrounding yourself with words. You read them, write them, study them, analyze their structure and order. You love them, hate them, and go to sleep thinking how to shuffle them into placement that sings, zings and leaves an imprint.

Teachers return to school to improve, volunteer after hours, and tutor way more than they get paid for. Doctors study professional journals, seek mentors, and attend conferences to hone their skills. Artists not only paint, but they study other artists' work and visit museums and public displays, hoping to learn from those who've traveled before them.

What makes a writer any different? Learn from mentors. Learn by example. Heck, you can't just teach yourself!

I've said this before, and I'll say it as many times as necessary to make a difference. You don't have the right to write if you don't have the need to read. Yeah, maybe it's corny because it rhymes, but if you don't marry your craft and learn to live with it around the clock, reading and writing, you have no right to complain when you are rejected.

How the heck do you know if your writing is any good if you don't read any of the standards, the new material, the prize winners? Don't you even want to know who you're up against?

Please tell me you're a voracious reader. Please?


Anu Lal said...

You are right Hope. And a very essential post for all the beginners, indeed, who often criticize their editors for rejecting their work without realizing where they stand in the craft of writing.
Kind regards,

Kathleen Basi said...

I am a voracious reader, always have been. But these days, I feel a little guilty for it. Like I'm taking time away from my kids. I know it's unreasonable, but my mother never read, not because she didn't like to but because there wasn't time, and we all feel guilty if we don't do things the way our moms did, right? :/

Amanda Kendle said...

So, so true Hope. "Writers" who don't read are a pet hate of mine, too!

And Kathleen - I had started to feel the same way until I read that a very important thing for your children to see is you reading - you have to model it for them! So read away and don't feel guilty.

Sioux Roslawski said...

I am indeed a voracious reader. When a writer reads, they absorb an occasional strategy or idea, and take it on as their own.

I agree with you, Hope. If you don't love words as a reader, how can you be passionate about them as a writer?

Val said...

I love to read. It's the biggest drain on my writing time. When I was a kid, I'd take a book in the car at night, reading it intermittently by streetlight coming through the back windshield. Abe Lincoln and his firelight had nothing on me.

This is not to say that I devote my time to devouring the classics. I read writing-industry blogs, and hang out at places like Television Without Pity, and TVgasm, reading hilarious recaps. For me, it's all about the humor. To even my keel, I indulge in a little post-apocalyptic tale every now and then.

The last books I read were The Help, and Tina Fey's Bossypants. I'm in the middle of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.

I can't imagine why a person who doesn't read would want to write. Sioux makes a good point about absorbing ideas as you read. You can't write in a vacuum.

Hope Clark said...

I agree - you have to read in order to write. Otherwise, don't, because you won't know what you are doing.

Holly Ann Wilcox said...

My biggest problem is I'd rather read than write!

Girly Muse said...

Hello, my name is Lori and I am a voracious reader. :)

I wholeheartedly agree with this post!

Hope Clark said...

It's easier to read. I'd kill for a day of only reading, wrapped up in a blanket, sipping my sweet tea, floating away on others' words.


Julie Nilson said...

I really don't think it's possible to be a good writer without being a reader. It's like trying to be a great chef without ever tasting food!

Also, your photo of my favorite Beatle reading here made my morning. :)