Read a Lot, Write a Lot-How We Learn From Each Other

December 1, 2011 § 1 Comment

Stephen King in his memoir On Writing suggests that “read a lot, write a lot” serve as the premier guiding principle for the prospective professional author. In order to reach your fullest potential as a writer, it is important to engage with what’s out there: the good, the bad and the ugly (cough cough, Stephenie Meyer).

In my perspective, a perspective I believe many artists share, the art of writing is simultaneously both private and public. Sitting down alone at your desk and communicating solely with the page or screen in front of you is an intensely personal activity. You create an intimate atmosphere within which you and your work interact. As other writers out there might understand, whenever I write I become fully absorbed in whatever I’m creating and the outside world may as well cease to exist. The number of times my mother has vividly recalled her day to my distracted creative brain I cannot begin to estimate. However it would be far too simplistic and frankly, inaccurate, to regard authors and indeed all artists as recluses. It is essential that artists dive into life experiences perhaps even more than less creatively minded people. If we didn’t, where we would be get our material from, and how would that material be authentic? Not to mention, if you are a published writer, the product of that intimate atmosphere is thrown out into the world, becoming the very opposite of private. Writing, therefore, is built upon negotiating two extremes: your private mind and your public audience.

Writers are forever tied into a dynamic learning process with other writers. Growing up, my style shifted like the wind depending on what I happened to be reading at the time. Opened up to the world of Virginia Woolf? Suddenly everything was stream of consciousness. Reading a lot of Hemingway at school? My sentences became shorter and even my characters admittedly a bit more depressed. Imitation is not a bad thing; we discover our own voice as we listen to everyone else’s. Stephenie Meyer teaches a lot, for example. Her plots are either stagnant or seemingly moving nowhere and her character relationships shallow and inauthentic. Moral of the story? Strive in your own work to move the plot along and create meaningful story-lines and honest characters. JK Rowling also teaches valuable lessons, like creating a living, breathing world within which the characters can play.

So get reading! Avid writers are often avid readers, but push yourself to keep it up even when you feel like “you don’t have time.” As Steven King says, there are plenty of places to pull out your book-in line, waiting for the train, or at the dinner table (which he does not find rude). Any book suggestions out there? Let me know! I’ll try to put up a list of books I enjoy and recommend in the near future!

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