Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Promiscuous girl

My friend Damien recently outed himself as a polyamorous reader, and asked if others were as well. My response was the confession that I am not only poly about my reading (I usually have bookmarks in 5-7 books at once), but that I am promiscuous, fickle, demanding, and needy.


The one piece of advice to beginning writers that seems to be consistent across time and space is to read. Read everything. Read to find out what you like, read to discover what you hate and then think about why you love and hate what you do. Read in your genre to discover what's been done before and read outside of your genre so your writing isn't myopic. Read the classics and read to discover the current state of literature. Read what's winning awards, and read what's selling millions.


Read.


Read because while there might be overlap between what you like to read, and what is well-written, the two are not one and the same. Read because the best way to learn to tell a story is to see how someone else does so, to pull back the curtain, and see what is behind it. Read, because to paraphrase Samuel R. Delany, your writing is only as good as the last thing you read.


Have reasons for what you read - and yes,"to be entertained" is a reason and a good one. Read because you want to learn how to do something in your writing, or how to not do it. Read something that makes you weep, makes you laugh, makes you think differently.


Read.

4 comments:

  1. I'm a serial monogamist... I read one book at a time only, and if it's serial, I'll do my best to read them all in a row. I do read various genres, and try new authors all the time... But if I find something I love and can immerse, I'm likely to get lost that way. I lose sleep from staying up too late, and am distracted during waking hours until I can crack it open again. THEN I jump to the next thing... Otherwise, skipping around makes me feel like I'm missing some of the fun by diluting each book. (Sometimes I envy people who juggle several books, but I kinda like my way for me :) )

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  2. It started in grad school for me - I had to keep up with the reading for the classes I was taking, as well as whatever course I was teaching, as well as whatever was necessary for the paper I was writing, and I still read for fun. Then I started also doing book reviews for the Endicott Studio, which meant I really needed to keep up. So I just got used to reading a ton of books at once.

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  3. I'd rather not comment on my reading habits, as my bookshelves might decide to divorce me on the spot...

    One piece of advice I CAN share is: do try to balance the languages in which you read, too. You don't want to end up picking up a dictionary to translate into your native language, like some. >_<

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  4. Oh, yes. Once during a period of intense work on my dissertation, I emailed my mother in Middle English. Yeesh.

    Sadly, I've let my non-native language skills lapse more than I'd like. I'm slowly trying to build back up, though, as a challenge to be able to read a greater variety of things.

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