The other day I was asked this question:
“If you want to be a writer – how come you don’t read?”
I’ve been thinking about that for a better part of a week and the truth is, I still don’t have an answer. Well, not an exact answer. I mean, I still don’t have an answer that answers the question exactly
… but, I don’t know… It might answer the question… but then again it may not? I’ve never been good at coming up with acceptable answers to questions I don’t know the answer too but. Oh, you get the point. I think…
Anyway, the point is, I was asked that question and I thought I would use this week’s blog to try and answer that question. *Nods*… Yes.
First thing’s first. Reading.
It’s not that I don’t read… because I do. I think, it’s just that, I think I don’t read enough according to them.
Anyone who has ever written anything will tell you that they love to read. Regardless of what it was. Read everything they could get their hands on. Devour the words on the page like a drug addict on crack – (Not in the literal sense mind you. Just wanted to point that out) and that’s how they came to be a writer. That and they wrote everything. Whatever and whenever they could. Some for the love of it and some simply so that they could afford to eat on a weekly basis. But they did it. And they persisted. And they knew they could. And, and, and, and more and.
Now, I’m not begrudging anyone this. Not at all. It’s just…. lately I’ve been noticing that people who have never written anything in their lives – are the ones telling me this and are insistent in their theory that – order for me to learn to write … I need to read.
Like I said before, I read. I suppose I go about it differently to most other people. Most people will read a book (or series of books) because they like the Author in question OR they saw a title they really liked and decided to give it a look.
See? I’m a little different in that I’ll read the blurb on the back and the first 3 pages of chapter 1. This will tell me three things
- Whether or not I’m going to like the writing style
- Whether or not I’m going to like how well the story flows together
- Whether or not I am going see visuals of the story in my head.
If these 3 things are present and accounted for in any written piece of work, then regardless of who wrote it or what it’s about – They’ll have my attention for that and whatever else they choose to write forthwith – Until either they stop writing things for me to read or I get bored. As a rule, it always seems to be the person stops writing things for me to read. The later hasn’t materialised yet and I suppose, for all involved, that’s a good thing.
In a way, that would mean I was …. Selective of what I read? Could that be it? That I need to be in a mood to read something? I need to feel connected in some way to the story? But then, isn’t that the same for everyone? Doesn’t everyone need to feel that way?
I would have thought so. Apparently though, you just need to read everything. Even things you don’t like… just in case you wish to question your own reasoning for not liking something.
When it comes to writing (and here’s the second part) It’s been something I’ve been able to do since I was twelve years old.
As I child I used to write poetry. Lots and lots of poetry and it was utterly fucking terrible! Nevertheless, I wrote it anyway and was as proud as punch whenever I showed my Mother my latest Dr Seuss inspired piece (i.e.: Every 2nd and 4th line had to rhyme) and I remember beaming with pride ( despite being a little embarrassed at the same time) whenever she would bring my folder of written works out and leave them on the kitchen table for show whenever we had visitors.
In school, English became my favourite subject and despite not holding the record for the greatest spelling and grammar in class, I made up for it with my enthusiasm. Not only for what was being taught and the fact we were able to write stories on whatever we wanted, but also because I loved being given a topic and told to write about it. I found It a challenge. My teachers would often shrink back in fear whenever this occurred as they knew that, for every two pages they’d receive on the subject matter from all the other students – They’d receive 30 plus pages from me. I once wrote a story about three girls living on an Island for a week that was over 40 pages long. I was 13 years old. I was told it was too long and had to cut it back to 5 pages because “It would take too long to read”. I was gutted. But I rewrote and handed in the *abridged* version a week later.
Over the years that followed I wrote stories, letters, parodies of songs and kept journals – going through countless pens and so many trees of paper that I should have been arrested for single-handedly destroying the environment…. but, I wasn’t. And just as well to! Otherwise I wouldn’t be here to be able to tell you this story!
In 1995, in my final year of High school, things started to go south, and I stopped writing for a very long time. In fact, I didn’t start writing properly again until somewhere mid 2010 when someone I’d made friends with, asked me to help her write some fan fiction.
Until that point, I’d never even heard the term *Fan fiction* and I had no idea what it meant. There’s no need to give anyone reading this a breakdown of what fan fiction is here. That is another blog for another day. Most people would scoff and look down their noses at fic writers but, I personally don’t – having dabbled in it myself across many fandoms over the years. In own opinion it’s the perfect situation in which budding writers can not only practise their craft but get feedback on their work from others and use that feedback to improve their skills. Not only that, it can also be used as a springboard into the world of professional writing and beyond. I’ve seen it happen countless times to many a fic’er and to that end I wish them well!
However, I digress.
As I was saying, I began writing again in 2010 after I was asked to help write some fanfiction. This went on for about a year or two (it was literally the longest fic in world, I reckon HAHA) until life took over for both of us and we stopped writing it.
I just didn’t ‘feel it’ anymore. I needed to feel something. I had nothing. Oftentimes, I’d purposely sit at my PC, open word and wait. I’d wait and wait and wait. For hours on end.
Nothing happened. Nothing came to me. I’d watch TV .. nothing. I’d listen to music … Nothing. Heck, I’d listen to them and read a book and still… Nothing.
I’d read the work of others and feel their words pull at my heart strings. Their words would swirl around in my head, painting glorious, beautiful pictures … but as soon as I’d sat down at my computer, all full of inspiration from what I’d just read … the feeling would vanish and with it – my urge to write.
I started this blog a year or two ago – with the intention of writing something every week. In the beginning I come out all guns a blazing and wrote about the first thing that sprang to mind… but over time, my blogs became stunted and boring, with no life in them whatsoever. I began to doubt myself and began to tell myself that no one was interested in anything I had to say and on the odd occasion I did write something – I was so crippled by the fear of criticism that I took anything said about it incredibly personally and pulled the pin on my writing for the second time.
Just like last time, I did exactly the same things again. I listened to music. I watched TV. I read the news and social media. I read fan fiction and even read a series of books (or two) in order to get my creative juices flowing again. And you know what? I got the same result as last time. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Then it hit me.
Do you know what I think the answer to this question is? It’s not about what I read or how much I want to read. In fact, it’s not about reading at all. It’s about writing. It’s about whether or not I want to write. If I want to write- then I’ll write. If I don’t? Well, I won’t.
It’s as simple as that. I need to want to write. When the urge comes- I just gotta write. I still don’t have award winning spelling and grammar and I probably never will have, but then, I’m not aiming to be a professional, am I? I just want to enjoy writing stuff.
So, I will.
Thanks for reading,