I’ve been writing on the theme of doing more to make more happen for a few weeks now, and here’s little more fanning for that flame:

Not only should I be taking the time to write about writing to make myself write more, but I should also be reading more. Reading both validates the importance of putting words on paper (or, rather, typing them on a screen) and inspires you to write more.

I remember being in high school and a friend of mine told me he wanted to be a writer. I asked him who his favorite authors were and he said he didn’t have any. He not only didn’t like reading, but he actively avoided it. I wondered if there was something wrong with me (which is the natural reaction of all teenagers to everything) for thinking you needed to love reading to love writing.

Well, he’s not a writer and I am. So in this case study, loving to read makes you 100 percent more likely to succeed at writing that hating to read. That said, I believe it’s as important to be reading the right things as it is reading at all.

Owen Meany is my favorite John Irving book and the one I'm re-reading now. It's taken me a month to get through half the book. I can't not linger on every delightful word.

For me, the best author for me to read for writing inspiration is John Irving. I love John Irving. I hang on every stinking word he writes. Now, perhaps this shouldn’t be true, as he’s a fiction writer and I’m a non-fiction writer, and the clear, distinct voice in which he writes is notably different than mine. However, what I find every single time I read an Irving book is that I see how my writing makes sense through the lens of his work. Though his books are complicated family sagas that are in style and content entirely different than anything I do, he does write very openly and personally. There’s a certain self-exposure in his fiction that feels like a memoirist or essayist, and therefore relates to my style. His voice may be different than mine, but we write with a similar cadence and with a hint of overlap in tone. Irving’s narrative voice is the a voice with whom I can imagine mine having a conversation. That’s why reading it compels me to write. To continue the imaginary conversation.

So yes, make time to read. I’ll put that in right between the eating and working, right after the writing about writing, and immediately before sleeping. Which is fun to do sometimes too.

3 thoughts on “Reading: Kinda Important

  1. Agreed! I think that people who say they want to write but don’t like to read are more in love with their thoughts than they are with how best to express those thoughts. Writing (to me) is about sharing something with others. It’s about trafficking in ideas and continuing a dialogue that began long ago. It’s about creating something in collaboration with people of all ages. Also, I like John Irving, too, and I think that another trait common to serious writers is that they can name their favorite authors and biggest influences on demand, without delay. For me those influences are: Jorge Luis Borges, Ray Bradbury, Italo Calvino, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Carl Sagan (non-fiction), Tolstoy, Hugo, etc. Finally, I think that good writing spans genres, so it makes perfect sense to me that one of your influences should be a writer of fiction even though you write non-fiction. 🙂

  2. Oh my, I forgot to name Albert Camus as one of my biggest influences! I think that from him I learned more about how to convey an emotion or mood through cadence (and how to achieve proper cadence through punctuation, etc.) than from almost any author I’ve read.

  3. NATALIE, HI,
    YOU ARE SO RIGHT ABOUT READING..OTHERWISE WE GET STUCK IN OUR OWN LITTLE WORLD OF THOUGHTS, IDEAS, ETC. AND LEAVE NO ROOM TO GROW WITHIN OURSELVES. DOES THIS MAKE SENSE? YOU ARE SUCH A GOOD WRITER AND ARE SO KNOWLEDGEABLE, BUT WHO KNOW HOW BRILLIANT YOU WOULD BE IF YOU READ MORE….RIGHT?

    LOVE YOU, SWEETIE, GRANDMA lL.

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