Monday, August 13, 2007

Reading for Writing?

A few days ago, RS commented:
I was thinking of this rather tired statement today: "The more you read the
better your writing will be." Any opinion on the subject?

Hmmmm. I dunno. In these situations, I always feel as though I should have an opinion and, if I don't, that I should form one on the spot. So I'll take a crack at it.

Reading seems to have helped my writing. I think there's a lot of truth to the aphorism. But these things, it seems, are never universal.

Augusten Burroughs comes to mind. In "Running with Scissors," he mentions that it never really occurred to him he might become a writer because he had never been a reader. (He grew up in an environment so chaotic it would have been nearly impossible for a child to develop reading habits.) This was true even though he had been journaling (if I remember right) most of his life.

Reading "Running with Scissors," it seems pretty clear that Burroughs is a natural.

I think reading really, really helps. If nothing else, it opens up your writing options by showing you different styles and approaches and genres. But I don't see a universal rule.

Of course, if you were to state the question as, "I want to be a writer. Do you think it would be helpful if I made it a point to read a lot"? the answer would be, "Hell, yes."

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