This has come up often in my various online writing groups:
There’s a writer, new to the world of compiling stories in a text based format. Like me, they want to be the next Ms. J.K. Rowling…
They have a manuscript ready for review and are eager to either workshop or jump straight into finding the agent that will make their dreams come true.
The only catch: they haven’t read a book in years, and this really doesn’t sit well with a lot of other writers. “How can you not love reading?” the other writers ask. The non-readers become pariahs in a community that was meant to support them.
In their defense, aren’t writing and reading separate activities with one being passive and the other active?
To me, it’s ok that that non-reading writers do not read; I’m not out to manage anyone else’s time, but I’m wondering if writers can become great if they don’t.
I tried to do some research.
I put “Famous authors who don’t like to read,” into Google, but I only found various sites telling me that this idea doesn’t exist. In order to write you MUST read! Article after article says it, so it must be true. On the other hand, there are some Reddit threads of people thinking it’s ok for writers to not read.
There’s an article from Salon; however, that I found interesting. It attributed a growing list of writers not reading to our culture:
Or maybe the bolder point is that craft is of little interest to certain want-to-be writers. In our 15-megabytes of fame culture that favors quantities — friends, followers, number of comments — over quality this might be what it all comes down to, because if you can be recognized and rewarded as a writer without being much of a reader, guess what, most people will not try to read James Joyce.
Is it fair to say that all non-reading writers are just out for the fame? Sure, especially when a lot of reading writers are doing it for the same reasons.
I will openly admit that I have not had a huge amount of sales, but I have two shrines in various workplaces with my books on display. Whether these people have read my work or not, they know I have tangible books out there in the world that people are reading, thus identifying me as a writer. The books don’t have to be good for this to be part of my identity; they just have to exist. I love identifying as a writer and that others identify me as one.
To conclude, my research didn’t really answer my question on whether you have to read to be a great writer.
If anything, it led to more.
Despite respecting the non-reading writers, I haven’t lost hope in converting them into avid readers. Sometimes we just need to be introduced to a new perspective.
Here is my response to the top three reasons that I’ve been told why writers don’t read:
There’s never enough time:
That’s a valid point no matter what a person is trying to accomplish. There are only 24 hours in a day. Other than a serious dedication to time management, it’s hard to find a solution to this universal problem. Do you really have zero time to read, or do you not want to invest your time on it? Even 10 minutes a day is better than 0. I learned that philosophy from Hal Eldrod’s Miracle Morning.
In 10 minutes a day, maybe you could get a book read every few months. That puts you leagues ahead of fellow non-readers!
Which leads to the next reason also involving time: It takes away from writing time.
This is also legitimate. I read less when I’m writing, and write less when I’m reading, but I’m still always doing both within my day. When I was going for my B.A. in Creative Writing, I had already developed a deep link between reading and writing (which is probably why I am super judgmental in regards to writers needing to read). It was necessary to budget time for writing because it was part of my degree program, but I didn’t have the same level of eustress to manage reading. As such, I mentally converted reading time into an “Independent Study.” Every class that I enrolled within I found a book to correlate with it. For example, when I took a non-fiction workshop, I read Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. With this philosophy, I made reading a priority, thus furthering my inability to separate reading from writing.
But ugh.. sometimes reading isn’t pleasurable, which is fair, especially if you were forced to read texts like the Scarlet Letter in high school. Writing and reading; however, are like muscles. They need to be exercised and diving into extreme sports, like 1000 pages of The Stand by Steven King, can cause serious brain fatigue. Ease into it, grasshopper! If you aren’t swallowing novels like they’re tic tacs, that’s ok. There are some amazing short stories out there, like Donald Barthelme’s “The School.” They can give you the same satisfaction as reading novels. There’s a yearly anthology that I love called The Best American Short Stories, which has some of our best contemporary authors compiled together just for you! A couple of pages a day can introduce you to great writers.
Now that I have addressed the reasons non-reading writers don’t want to read during their writing journey, here’s three reasons why I think you should:
Passion is hard to keep consistent when you’re writing. My first official novel took 2 years to complete from start to finish. It took J.R.R. Tolken twelve years to write The Lord of the Rings. If you are curious about other turtle paced writers check out this article: 7 Novels That Took Their Authors Years To Write (To Make You Feel Better About Not Finishing NaNoWriMo). Reading keeps you invested in the project even after your writing bug has disappeared. Additionally, it shows you that if books like those listed on the worst books can get published, it means your book can get published, too! <~ although hopefully it doesn’t show up on the worst books list.
Like I’ve said before, I’m a big time book pusher. When I’m talking about my book, I’m also pushing other books. “Oh you liked mine? Check out this one next!” This allows me to move beyond my one and done book and be a wealth of information for my readers, which keeps them coming back! It lets them see that I am just like them! I care about my readers, and I know they’ll appreciate my recommendations. Bonus points if they have recommendations for me! In the independent book selling market, this level of connection with readers is crucial.
I learned a lot from my creative writing classes, but none of the education really sunk in until I saw it in practical application. Reading immerses you into various techniques and styles, allowing you as a writer to better develop your own. By reading books, I learned about flow of ideas, how better it is to show vs. tell, and where to insert physical description. I also learned to reflect on my responses to what I was reading and utilize these to project the same responses for my audience. As such, reading has made me a better writer. Beta reading has made me an even better writer.
At the end of the day, if you’re a writer who doesn’t like to read, you probably didn’t read this post (totally ok; it kind of lost my attention at the end as well). If you did, you just read like 1000+ words, so you can now say you’re a reader. Kudos!
Am I saying that you have to be reader to write, nope, but I am saying that if you want to be a GREAT, you should.
If you have any recommendations of books that turned you from a non-reader into a reader, please share them in the comments. I’d love to see what books brought others to the reader side.
In class, my daughter was dubbed “Clumsy Turtle,” which has led to a near obsession the past few months of all things turtle related:
Naturally, she wants a pet turtle.
I really REALLY don’t want another pet. I mean I want them in the fact that having a new pet is exciting. But a turtle? They don’t look the snuggly type. And does she want a turtle because she loves the creatures, or is she infatuated with her nickname connection to them?
To figure that question out, I bought some time and told her that she needed to do some serious research on turtle care and wait awhile to see if this was still what she wanted. That same day, my daughter blew through my room, her laptop in hand. She had compiled a list of detailed care instructions for the three most common varieties of pet turtles. (I say compiled because she straight up no shame in her game copy and pasted things without citing references. Have I taught her nothing?!) At the bottom, she had itemized a cost of all the supplies. The only thing she couldn’t find was how much the turtle themselves cost, otherwise, it was incredibly thorough.
We drove to three pet stores the next day. One was nearby. No turtles. The second one we went to was larger, but even they had no turtles. My daughter asked a clerk why. He said that they had received an order of turtles, but they couldn’t sell them. Not until Saturday, which also happened to be their annual Reptile Rally. The turtles would be 50% off then. Finally, we went to a smaller pet store. And they actually had a turtle!
Which is where I saw some information that my daughter conveniently left off of her list of information. Turtles can live up to 25 years! Say what now?!
The next step was to call our vet and see if they cover turtles. I assume they do. Their logo has a bunch of animals, turtles included, so it would be a major case of false advertisement if they didn’t. However, I expect full and complete leg work of my child if she expects to bring a new life into this home.
Meanwhile, I started some research of my own. I learned that the reason that the second shop couldn’t sell their turtles to us was because they were red eared sliders, which are considered an invasive species in my state. I know that I should be concerned by that, but I’m not going to lie: When I heard that, I thought why can’t I just go and find some in the wild then and save $40? I kid…
My next set of research was to see if there were any turtles in the local shelters. There weren’t, but there is an organization a state away called Turtle Rescue League. On their page, they state that red-eared sliders are the most abandoned pet in the country- which if I’m being honest makes me very sympathetic to the idea of getting one now. You poor, abandoned creatures!
On the other hand, if that sucker lives 25 years, it IS like bringing another child into the home. In fact, we talked about how our dog and cats are like children to me, in that their needs will sometimes have to supersede my own. On our way to day camp today, I stressed that this turtle will not be her sibling. It will be her first “child,” and I expect her to give it that level of care. I said I’d treat it like a grandchild, spoiling it and watching it when she needed me to, but at the end of the day, that turtle is going home with its momma…
There is a knowledge digestion period that we’re now in. We must let all the information we’ve learned sink in before making a decision, which kids have a hard time doing. Everything must be NOW! Let’s face it, that’s probably why so many turtles are abandoned.
I have a feeling though that before the summer is out, I’ll be a grandma to a reptile.
If you have never heard of CampNaNoWrimo, I have written about it before in other blog posts, but the gist is that for the month of July writers set goals and hold each other accountable via intimate forum based groups.
It’s my understanding that NaNo time is supposed to be spent drafting and the off time revising/planning. I suppose that’s a good process, but I’m still revising the 50,000 words I wrote in November, not including all the new extra 30,000+ from April’s CampNaNoWrimo. I’m a slow revisionist, very meticulous in my ability to procrastinate revising, and so it’s not in my best interest to devote July to drafting more words.
As such, this Camp NaNoWriMo I am going to embrace the art of the red pen!
There will be many surgical cuts, padding where needed and sometimes complete overwrites. It will be hard to capture word count, which is the conventional progress tracking system of fellow Nanoers.
With my trusty stopwatch app on my phone, I will be tracking hours. My goal is to dedicate one hundred hours to the revision process, essentially turning my goal into a part time summer job. Or should it be considered an internship, as I am not really getting paid?
I will also be reviewing the audio book English Grammar Bootcamp from my favorite linguist, Anne Curzan. This series is great, and I gush about it at least once a day at work. I like to pair my writing process with good literature like it’s a fine wine.
Good luck to my fellow NaNo peeps!
This weekend we celebrated the eldest’ birthday in New York City!
We went to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two.
The kids and I had read the screenplay, each responsible for a bunch of parts. I have to say; my son did an impersonation of Draco Malfoy that was unforgettable! Of all the parts I played, I feel that I really resonated with Professor Mcgonagall. It’s good to see that she’s still super sassy and not about to put up with nobody’s hot mess… even if you are the Minister for Magic.
Suffice to say, the shows were amazing, certainly well worth the mortgage payment price.
On the second part, we splurged on the lounge option where we got to have dinner, desert, and drinks before and during intermission.
I’m disappointed that some people were too celebratory during Voldemort Day, but what can you expect from a Slytherin?
My kids also went to Central Park for the first time. I don’t think they were as impressed about it as I was. I love how energized the park is. There are musicians and artists all around. You can catch a bride walking along a bride to her groom on the other side. It’s a beautiful place to be in spring.
We also checked out the American Museum of Natural History. I was brazen, I wanted to DO ALL THE THINGS, so our day was spent doing all the special features of the museum, but not really getting to see any of the key elements. <~ which to me means another museum trip in the future!
We got to play with butterflies.
We learned about the ocean:
We got pretty intimate with notorious T-Rex:
We watched this epic IMAX movie about backyard creatures. My youngest was really fascinated, so we may end up installing a critter cam in our wooded area to see what calls that area home.
Finally, we visited their planetarium to see Dark Universe. And all of this was fruitful because I made a cosmicoceanological connection that has revolutionized the way my the science of my Children of the Planes novel pans out.
After the museum, we visited Laughing Man Coffee. This was the only thing on my husband’s list, being a fan of Hugh Jackman.
I had it in my head that this was a coffee shoppe, but I’d call it more like a coffee stop, which was a tad bit disappointing given that we paid over $27 to take a cab from the museum to this location to make sure that we got there on time. Turns out there are two locations and we went to the Duane Street option. The other one looks more of what I envisioned in my head. We sat outside, which to me was the perk of the place. People with their pups were sitting, and there was cute dog that I swear looked like the Lorax.
Finally, I don’t think it’s that surprising that I monopolized on our journey to Pokehunt. Living in a rural area, I was in Pokestop overload. And all our walking, despite the constant groaning of the kids, was worth it:
We are headed back to New York City again in two weeks. Any places that you have to visit when you’re in the city?
April is National Poetry Month. I haven’t always been a fan of poetry, and I really wasn’t thrilled with having to take poetry for my degree program. Structurally, it didn’t make sense to my brain. Why do you cut a sentence apart into lines or have no sentences at all?! I never realized that I cared so much about grammar as I did when trying to understand poetry.
Poetry was exactly what I needed in life, however. It’s become a way for me to express a lot of ideas that I can’t really do in other outlets. It’s also been a blessing in teaching myself to slow down, to examine things with time stopped. As such, it’s been very therapeutic to work things out in this format, and I find myself drawn to it quite often.
I’ve been going to poetry readings as well. One of my favorite professors is a poet; he did a spoken word event to bring awareness to HIV and AIDs in my first year, and I was floored by how much energy he can draw when he’s on a stage. He was recently recognized as Hartford’s first poet laureate, and so I’ve had further access to hear him read his poems aloud. He’s also introduced me to other local poets in the area. I can’t speak about National Poetry Month without also speaking about how awesome Professor Frederick Douglass Knowles II is!
So how can you celebrate this month?
Poems.org is a great resource for discovering what makes poems transcend time. They feature bios of poets and snippets of what inspired the poems. My favorite is their poem-a-day feature. I get an email every morning!
Today’s featured poet is Nikky Finney, a poet who I had never heard of until today. Check out her poem O’ Noblesse O.’
Poetry is best served orally.
Here are some of my favorites:
And our Allaire family Poet Laurette:
Broken Pieces by Lisa Shirley-Allaire
Another way to enjoy National Poetry month is to WRITE poetry.
Writer’s Digest is having a daily challenge on their site. They set out a prompt and you draft up a poem and share it within that day, if you find yourself unsure how to start the writing process. It’s also great because you can see how other poets tackled that challenge and learn from their perspectives.
When I discovered this daily challenge, it was already on day 6. So I gave that one a go. The prompt was to start with the word “After.” I wasn’t sure if I was going to post this, because it ends on a hot debate item in our family, but isn’t that what poetry is about, finding a way to navigate life, even the uncomfortable bits?
Camp NaNoWriMo is only a few short days away, and I’m excited!
For those not in the know, Camp NanoWrimo is the love child of NanoWriMo, a time away from the vigorous expectation of the elder namesake and it’s 50,000 words within a single month of craziness.
My story idea is a new one that I’ve been developing: a child not too school savvy who has fallen in love with only one book of his life, and it ends with a cliffhanger. The need to find the sequel to the book is strong, but it seems the author never got around to making it! What’s a kid to do? Give up?! Obviously, the answer is no!
One of my favorite features of the Camp experience is that YOU, the amazing writer with a million other responsibilities, get to make your own manageable goal. Forget the NaNoWriMo box; create your own!
This month I will try to write 30,000, which is about 30,000 more than I wrote for the month of February.
Ok I lied, I spent some time writing poetry.
But drafting stories is a mixture of feeling almost godlike to being reduced to a mere mortal within the same breath.
It’s not good for the blood pressure some days.
Which is why the second unique feature of CampNanoWrimo is so valuable: bunkmates! In a forum-based discussion group, you are paired with various people (or create your own cabin) to have a support group.
So far my bunkmates are ready for action!
Anyone else participating in CampNaNoWriMo this year?