Cheap carbon copies

It is only the modern that ever becomes old-fashioned.

                                                       – Oscar Wilde

You want to write but you don’t read?

The Talent: I’m going to be a writer.

Voice of Reason: I’ve never seen you show even the slightest interest in books.

Some writers disregard the authors of the past, claiming they have no relevance or presence in the world of the modern writer. However, good writing is timeless, it revisits issues that are importance to humans of all sexes, ages, races, classes and times. Every generation reads a work and reads it differently, revealing something new about a novel, poem or play written two hundred years ago.

It may sound tedious and unnecessary, but to write well you should be able to read. Actually, you should be putting your reading into practice. To transform, immerse and captivate a reader with your writing requires first hand experiencing of being compelled by a piece of writing. If you’re unaware of a works affect on yourself how can you hope to even tickle a reader? You don’t have to go and read the entire Cannon, but you do have to read, and read often. Ignoring the greats who came before you doesn’t make you cool, fresh or new. It makes you stupid, as often your works will cheap carbon copies of greater works you’re unaware that you’re even imitating.

Can you divorce reading from writing and still be a good writer?

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I’m going to write a novel. For the love of all that is holy, why?

There is creative reading as well as creative writing.

                                                        – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A writer is a reader first

You’ve heard it before: in order to be a good writer you must be well read (we’ll discuss this lovely concept in another post). Read as much as you can and expose yourself to as many diverse authors as you can, writers learn to write from reading others who are masters of writing, and other wonderful pieces of advice that do little to ebb away our anxiety as writers.

I discussed in my I don’t need you to be my hero post that it is important to find your voice as a writer through writing. I made the argument that our influences make us who we are as writers, but we shouldn’t get lost trying to be Fitzgerald, Hemingway or their likes.

So we’ve dealt with the possible extreme of losing your voice through excessive imitation, without exploration of your own writing voice. We’ve yet to look at the debilitating effects of not reading at all. Debilitating? Yes, and I’m sure after this video you’ll be using such words to describe the side effects of not reading at all.

Anyone who wants to be an author needs to watch this video:

What are some of the things that have made you the writer you are? Is being “well read” all that important? What’s your favourite line from the video? I can’t decide, but “I’ve never even seen you read a book,” is golden.