writers write but they must also read

I love to write. I love coming on here, translating my emotions — all my writing begins with emotion — into thought, thought into words. My thoughts, like most, are not linear in nature; they fill the space of my mind and require a certain type of wrangling to discipline them, to get them into order. I typically write quickly, stream of consciousness at first, just trying to get the words on the page before they fly away as thoughts are wont to do. It’s only later, maybe in the day, maybe in the week, that I revisit those jumble of thoughts into a narrative that makes readers want to read.

It is true, then, that if you want to be a writer, you must write. There is no substitute to get the thoughts from the mind onto the page. (And to be sure, I am using “writing” and “page” as terms that means moving thoughts from the mind to somewhere outside of the mind. This could be by speaking into a recorder, or some other means of producing rough drafts). Writers should probably write every day, getting into the habit of writing even when you think you have nothing to write. You may not have anything to write that will eventually be published, but thoughts are always present, and they likely can use somewhere to go.

But, for most of us, we write to be read. We need to turn those thoughts into something readable. So writers must read. Academically, I know that my work requires reading because I need to know what work I am drawing upon and expanding on, I need to know who I agree with and to whom I am opposed. I need to know what others have already said about my topic so I can say something that is new.

Here, though, I mean something different than reading for content. We must also read for feel and for sound. Some words work next to each other. Some sentences don’t work when this subject is paired with that object. Some paragraphs have too much information, some have not enough. Words have multiple meanings, meanings have multiple words. Thought is messy.

Perhaps this makes me a bad academic, but 75% of what I read is fiction because I want to be a good writer. My days are filled with caring for my physical needs and that of my family, so at the end of the day, I look forward to my mind having fun. Fiction takes us into a world that does not actually exist, but it can draw us into that world where we take it on its own terms and find ourselves immersed in someone else’s thoughts. I want my writing to do that, academic and otherwise. I want it to draw you into my world. I want to convince you of the correctness of my interpretation. And I want it to be enjoyable to do so. The only way I can learn to do that is to write as a reader.

If you are a writer, drop in the comments your favorite books as a writer who reads. Right now I’m reading I’m always looking for new inspiration!

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