Writers Reading Readers’ Writing

Writing is gonna come up a lot. After all, the reason I started this blog was to get myself writing regularly. This is the first stretch of time since <saves draft, checks posting history> May of last year that I’ve posted with any semblance of regularity, and I’m giving myself credit for that. Allowing yourself to be proud of your accomplishments is just as integral to personal growth as realizing what your weaknesses are.

Nailed it.

Nailed it.

Lately, I’ve felt like one of my opportunities for growth lies in reading more. I’m a writer, and I want people to read and like the things I’ve written. I’m a terrible reader. I know in our day and age, the reader has largely been replaced by the viewer, and if that’s the case, I’m an excellent modern-day reader.

If I haven't seen it, it's new to me.

If I haven’t seen it, it’s new to me.

I’ve been frequenting our local library, and I find I’m too ambitious when picking out books. There are books I know I should read (or should have read by this point in my life), so I get about five or six of them, start reading two and finish none. If I wrote out a list of books I’ve never read, I’m sure some of you would shake your head at me. So I’m going to do just that. Because I hate myself. (Keep in mind these are books I haven’t read)

  • Lord of the Flies
  • The Call of the Wild
  • Brave New World
  • Slaughterhouse-Five
  • 1984
  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • Atlas Shrugged
  • War and Peace
  • Crime and Punishment
  • Don Quixote
  • The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings
  • The Chronicles of Narnia
  • Of Mice and Men
  • Animal Farm
  • Moby Dick
  • Watership Down
  • Robinson Crusoe
  • A Confederacy of Dunces
  • Paradise Lost
  • The Scarlet Letter
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • The Red Badge of Courage

I’m surprised I made it through LOST.

That list is only 25 (more, considering the Tolkien) of the books I haven’t read. I’m sure there are literal volumes of books, stories, essays, and documents one might consider essential reading on which I have never laid eyes. I’m sure if I wrote out a list of must-see movies or must-hear albums I’ve never consumed, the reaction would be much the same. But as Mark Twain said, “A classic is something everybody wants to have read, but no one wants to read.”

MarkTwain

“Yes sir, I have read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.”

There’s a shelf at my workplace full of what management decided would be helpful reference/resource books. I work in IT, so they’re mostly to do with networking, programming, or software. They’re books that employees may have gotten from college courses, acquired for themselves, or have left over from software purchases. Among them is a Literature for Composition book. The first chapter is entitled “The Writer as Reader.” It begins with an excerpt of an interview with author Toni Morrison.

Interviewer: Did you know as a child you wanted to be a writer?

Toni Morrison: No. I wanted to be a reader.

The chapter continues by stating that “learning to write is in large measure learning to read.” The heading on the book’s back cover reads, “Inspiring great writing through studying great writers.”

There’s a whole book saying that to be a writer, you have to be a reader first.

FreewaySign

– The Universe

I used to watch movies with the attitude (probably more like the excuse) that I was studying for my future career. I should be reading like that now. I may not want to write novels or poetry, but just like it takes seeing many good movies to know the good from the bad, it takes reading many books to know the difference between good and bad writing. Subsequently, understanding what makes writing good will help you write well.

Fortunately, I’m taking a Literature course this semester as part of the prereqs for my film degree. That will help me read in an analytical way. It will help introduce me to new material, authors, and writing styles. I also have 100 Must-Read Books: The Essential Man’s Library and 100 Books to Read Before You Die (not counting overlapping entries, this list cuts off at 85) that will give me a list of books to read from to expand my literary horizons.

"Here you'll see the required reading for Wednesday."

“Here you’ll see the required reading for Wednesday.”

There are plenty of lists to tell me what to read. Knowing what to read is not the problem. Knowing I ought to read is not the problem. Just like I know I should exercise every day. Or I ought to take the garbage out when it’s full. The point is, there is a massive difference between knowing what needs to be done and actually doing it. Actually doing it requires effort. A failure won through fervent effort is easily vanquished; a failure won through laziness or apathy is neither forgotten nor overcome.

"Listen to us on this, Lydia. This is something we know a lot about."

“Listen to us on this, Lydia. This is something we know a lot about.”

It’s not enough to know. I have to do. Read. Write. Put in the work.

I think I’m ready to do that for the first time in my life.

Just look at me, posting a blog for <saves draft, checks posting history> three weeks in a row.

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One response to “Writers Reading Readers’ Writing

  1. Glad you found my list useful. But really, don’t worry too much about the books you think you “should” be reading. If you’re a professional reader of some kind (as I am) then there are going to be “required” texts, some enjoyable and some not. But I think you should read primarily for enjoyment–not just for immediate the thrill of the plot, though that’s important, but for the deeper, longer-lasting enjoyment of deep thinking, which good books help us do. Be willing to pick up something new, because your taste as a reader will change and develop in unpredictable ways. But in the meantime, don’t be ashamed of reading the kinds of books you really enjoy.

    I put my list together in order to help people find books they might enjoy. Happy reading.

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