A Case For NOT Reading…

A Case For NOT Reading… When You’re a Writer!

Oh that’s a title that will tick off a lot of people. Don’t read? You’re a writer! You need to be reading all the time. You’ve been schooled on this, right? By everyone. You need to read everything—from novels and poetry to classics and nonfiction and… stop. Just, please, for the love of all things in The Craft, stop!

I can’t read another article about reading. Seriously.

I just read a Blogger’s post who went on endlessly, criticizing not just another Blogger’s writing style, but speculating that the Blogger didn’t read. And certainly didn’t read enough. First of all, how does he know if the Blogger reads or doesn’t, or what she does or doesn’t read? And secondly, her voice is her own. We all acquire one as a writer. Mine is perhaps similar to yours, or completely different. (Does it really matter?) As long as you’re engaged and your syntax is fairly adequate, we typically go to Bloggers to learn something, or to at least feel like you’re not alone in all of this.

So why stop all the reading? Simple. So, you have more time to write. And to pitch your stories. And to talk on the phone with agents and studio executives, and perhaps even hop a plane—and watch content, because it’s really hard to write on a plane—and meet with someone who can change your life.

Do you really need to read To Kill a Mockingbird to be a good writer? Probably not. And it’s distracting you and you know it. But, you’ve been told, even by the gods like Stephen King, if you don’t read, you’ll never be a good writer, and certainly not good enough to make a living at it.

So, to the Blogger who suggested that every writer should be reading all day—and he references magazines and periodicals—I’d like to suggest something else. Write. That’s why there’s a little saying, “Writers write.” It’s what we do, it’s who we are.

Here’s where I’ll back-pedal just a little, before Aaron Sorkin sends out a bunch of witch hunters with burning torches and puts me up on a stake, you do need to research. And, yes, that involves a lot of reading. You need to put your hands on anything you can get when you’re writing nonfiction books and biopics, you’ll have to learn what a bank teller does for a living in order for your character to come alive, you’ll have to know what the weather was like on that fateful day in 1967 when the real-life kidnapper snatched a baby. Yes, you do have to read. But, save it for what you need to read.

If you’re in the middle of Moby Dick because someone told you that in order to be the author or screenwriter you’ve always dreamed of, you need to read everything—and let’s not forget the periodicals (Big Sigh Here)—put it down. It’s okay. You don’t have to do it. Just go ahead, sit down and write your story. Try to achieve flow—you know, that thing that puts you in the moment when your fingers can’t type as fast as your mind can create.

And, don’t take advice from anyone else on reading. You don’t even have to take mine. If you happen to be on a beach and on vacation reading that really cool new novel by, well, it could be me, go ahead. But, don’t force it. I give you permission to do your thing and write.

Please stop reading this Blog post now.

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