All writers should be readers. It’s one of those truisms, isn’t it. You here it all the time, especially in those “10 tips for writers” types of resources.
I don’t disagree with it. One of the reasons I wanted to be a writer is because I started off being a reader. And even now, as a fully fledged writer, I still enjoy treating myself to a good book. Often, when I get to the end, I even have a bunch of ideas for my next story. But, at the risk of sounding a little controversial, I do have to say that I find mixing reading and writing to be quite problematic.
It goes like this. When I read a good story, I really get into it. The cliche about losing myself in a good book is absolutely true. I can’t put it down, often staying up well past bedtime so I can find out what happens next, and then next again, and then next again. Even when I’m not reading, I find myself daydreaming about the characters in the story.
When I’m writing my own stories, it’s not much different. I tend to immerse myself in my own narratives in exactly the same way. My characters come to life inside my head, and I constantly find myself having internal conversations with them and thinking about what will happen to them next.
Do you see the problem? Can you figure out the quandary I find myself in? Given how my mind gets so full of the story I’m reading and the story I’m writing, it’s virtually impossible to combine the two.
I’ve tried, believe me. There have been a number of times when I’ve found myself immersed in both a story I’m reading and a story I’m writing. In the end, it just hasn’t worked. My brain doesn’t have the space to combine the two, and I’ve had to choose one or the other. Usually it tends to be the story I’m reading. At least I can put that down after a few days and turn my mind back to the story I’m writing. But once I’m immersed in writing mode, I tend not to turn myself over to reading mode. It will inevitably cause too many delays to my writing schedule.
So, in the end, I guess I’m not disagreeing with the truism. I agree that writers should also be readers. It’s just that, for me at least, I can’t be both at the same time.
Posted by Jonathan Gould and tagged as