What’cha Readin’ For?- 5 Lies About Why Writers Should Read

“Not, what am I reading, but what am I reading FOR?”-Bill Hicks

The main reason is so I don’t end up being a f-ing destitute substitute teacher the rest of my life. -me


I know, as a writer and aspiring author, I need to read.  I do.  I have been.  I promise.  I’ve started enough books to fill my room, which I sadly just call ‘Room’.  Seriously, the unfinished novels mock me from every crevice of Room.  “Read me!” They scream from their glue-bound spines.  “I’m trying!” I scream back.  My cat thinks I’m screaming at him and hides under Bed.

Oh, are you waiting for a list?  We’re all about lists, aren’t we?

1. Read to Learn- Wrong!  You need to read to learn to read to learn.  Huh?  Well, written language is the Spire upon which all knowledge is distributed.  Yes, but you have to do research to find out what you need to learn before you start reading.  How do you do that?  Reading.  It’s a conundrum wrapped around a rotting, festering boil of information overload.  Do you want depth, or breadth (we’ll get to that later) of knowledge.  No.  You want understanding.  You want to train your brain to process information and emotion efficiently so you’re not wasting your time going down muddy, claustrophobic rabbit holes of mis- and useless information.

I used to tell my students that it didn’t matter what you learned, as long as you were working your brain.  But we’re beyond the, ‘Why am I learning this?’ phase of our lives, right?  Now our very lives depend on the acquisition of pertinent knowledge and understanding.

My fellow writers, listen to me.  Write first, then read.  If you’re like me, and pray you’re not, the writing will lead to the reading.  You’ll need to gain understanding in oh so many things in order to add authenticity to your book and insure it’s truly as original as you think it is.  What you write will guide you towards what you need to read, not t’otherwise sitiated.

2. Read to Find Your Voice- You’re kidding me, right?  ‘But I want to write like them.’  Shut up.  You want…YOU NEED…to write like you.  The bleeding, barely breathing torso of YOUR soul needs to be splattered across the pages you inhabit and create.

Believe me, I tried gearing my writing towards the conventions of genre, mood, and scope, vicariously writing in someone else’s  voice.  What I ended up with was a geo-scape of beautiful ideas hidden at the core of a leaden planet called Halteres.

Then I got pissed.  I wrote angry and I finally found my voice.  I’m a cantankerous, snarky, slightly beyond middle age man who’s possessed by the ghost of his petulant, mischievous teenage self.  That’s when I started writing Opposable, and re-imagining Halteres, and that’s when the Sparks returned.

Pay that shit off!  Quit paying interest on another’s.  Write like you think.  No, I mean really think.  Okay, I’m going to say this, and I just punched myself in the face as punishment.  Write like no one will ever read the dirty little thoughts in your mind.  You’re a filthy liar.  You have to be.  That’s what writers do.  They lie.  They tease.  They stir dark regions that no one else dare go.  Ooh, you’re bad!  THAT’S the shit people really want to read.

And remember what I said about fear?  You got your power drill?  Go to town!

3. Read to Connect- No.  WRITE to connect, then read the responses.  Then write a response.  Respond to the writing that connects to you, but you should never connect with something without responding to it.  (I must remind myself that these posts are mainly advice to myself, because I’m ultimately a selfish bastard, but I hope you can connect with what I’m saying…by reading this.  (Snickers at his own hypocrisy.))

4. Read for Inspiration- Okay, sometimes.  I struggle with getting into novels, not because I’m illiterate or uninterested, but because I can’t for my meager life go in with a clear head.  I’m always comparing, projecting, and scrutinizing my writing against the author’s.  It makes reading maddening and painful at times.  I know a novel is good when these instincts disappear.  Sometimes they do.

I also have go beyond the snapshot of the novel and author and look to the backstory of the manuscript.  Is this a first time author who’s novel is due to be a major motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg?  If so, I hate you.  Also, I want to be you.  Your novel has elicited inspiration, loathing, awe, and dread.  You suck, you slinky succubus.

5. Read for Instruction- Phthalates, please.  Have you absorbed a word I wrote?  I instruct you to write!  Okay.  Thank you.  Now I have permission to write.  I have permission to be awful, awkward, and precocious, even though I should be well past the point where I care.  Have I mentioned I’m neurotic, hypersensitive, and super duper mudey?  (Tell me I misspelled something.)

I’m exhausted, but it feels great!  Be on the lookout for upcoming posts such as; Aggressive Passive Aggressiveness, Burnout is Beautiful, and Feel My Breadths.

Thank you and be gone, I’m reeediiing…a book.


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