20 January 2012

Reading and Writing to Write

"If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut."
- Stephen King

I agree with this very simple-seeming piece of advice; there are no magic spells, no secret buttons, no fairy dust—unless you want them in your stories; but they will not arrive serendipitously to give you the edge to write.  King, it has been belabored by many writing teachers, points out that reading provides the tools for writing.

Thinking about this in connection with Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, I believe this advice needs to be modified with the following caveats:
  • Online reading does NOT equal deep reading of actual books
  • Reading like a reader must be changed to reading like a writer
  • Both reading and writing should be done in distraction free environment, if and when possible
In following posts we’ll look at these in turn, with an eye toward distraction, the changes to our brains from online reading, and reading like a writer.

There will be many that will disagree with me on one or more of these points: that’s understandable, because everyone is different.  The area that I have received the most debate in is that of distraction free reading and writing.  Even Stephen King states in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft that he writes while listening to music (usually hard rock or heavy metal).  I will say that there are times when doing this can be helpful and I will go into that, also.
Please feel free to comment, but be nice to me and to other commenters.  This is meant to be a discussion on writing and reading and comments should reflect that.  Thanks.

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