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Why Read?

Journal Entry: Sat Mar 16, 2013, 1:14 PM
Welcome to WritersInk's latest feature: Editorials

Our editorials will discuss issues which affect writers generally, as well as dA Lit specifically. In this series we will be discussing the importance of reading and the impact it has on both author and audience. Chapters will be published as they're added!

It's something we've all heard many times before, 'If you want to be a great writer, you need to be a great reader.' We're advised to read whenever and whatever we can, and there are plenty of guides to help you up your reader's word count, but it's not always clear why we should be doing so. Well in this editorial, WritersInk will be providing some answers.

Let us not forget that reading should be an enjoyable experience, and that can be considered reason alone to pick up a book (or click on a literature deviation), but for the aspiring writer there are a few more benefits to consider.

“We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read.” -- Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth
Reading is an inspirational experience. A good story or a well-told poem is satisfying to read in of itself, that's why we started writing them in the first place. By delving a little deeper we can draw upon two kinds of inspiration associated with reading literature.

The first is inspiration of ideas, which is all of the new thoughts and possibilities that begin to spring up when you're reading. Sometimes it's the entire setting or lead characters that provoke you to write something similar. This is when you read that epic fantasy novel and want to begin your own version of Middle Earth. Sometimes it's smaller than that though, even a throwaway line can catch hold and spark an idea that might fit a new piece of work or slot into what you're already writing. Don't feel ashamed to embrace these flashes of inspiration - there's nothing shameful about it. Your writing will inspire other people, why not let yourself be inspired by them?

The second kind of inspiration is in literature itself, to be reminded about how powerful the written word can be and to strive towards that excellence. This is frightfully important, because without it we're sure to lose sight of why we began writing in the first place. Stuck running over the same old ground in the story or poem you're working on? Is the idea of finishing your piece becoming a stressful burden? Take a break and read. Remember what made you want to write.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.” -- George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons
New styles, new language
Reading is a good way to learn new styles, techniques, and vocabulary. There's no way you're going to come up with every style and literary technique by yourself, so the best way to discover them is to read literature from different authors, different genres. We're all constantly learning in nearly everything we do, but when it comes to literature we can at least be enjoying a good story while we do it.

Certain styles of writing are much more common in one genre than others, but that doesn't mean they're not applicable elsewhere. Struggling to build a deeper relationship between two characters? Time to read some romance. Want to use some vivid imagery? Poetry is the way to go. Worried that your poetry tends to sprawl and lose focus? Go see how the fixed form poets do it. Learn from the writers that do it best.

New language and techniques are the same kind of deal: it's all about exposure. It's worth noting that when reading, you've often got time to look into the words being used and how they're strung together. Reading with a dictionary to hand helps no end, and if you can survive the distractions the internet is another valuable tool.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.” -- Charles William Eliot
Critical consideration
Reading helps us to write better. Just be sure to ask yourself 'why?' Why did you like that paragraph? Why didn't you? Why did that stanza invoke such strong imagery? Why did you feel sympathy, or anger, or anything at all. By looking a little bit beyond just the words on the page it's possible to get much more out of them.

To look at it another way, if all you're doing is reading the words one by one are you really reading much at all? If you go through an entire story thinking 'I like the protagonist' without being able to answer the simple question, 'Why do you like the protagonist?' perhaps you've missed something.

It's not always easy to do, and sometimes what you're reading will almost demand that you simply sit back and let it wash over you, but it is a chance to add more to the experience whilst picking up skills that can be employed when you put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) later.

“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” -- Stephen King
The circle of life feedback
Reading encourages reading. If you don't read what other people have written, how can you expect anyone else to read what you write? It's a contentious issue, granted, and only really applies to sites like deviantART rather than commercial literature (which you certainly should read). However, it's not by accident that people who make themselves known in a community by offering comments and feedback usually receive such things themselves.

Let's remember what was said at the beginning: reading is supposed to be enjoyable. Reading as a marketing ploy is the wrong way to approach things, but if you're going to be reading anyway, especially if you're taking the time to approach the work critically, then leaving your thoughts can be an encouragement for other authors to do the same for you. And if someone has written a piece of literature you find in some way inspiring, don't you think they deserve to know?
Let's not pretend that writing isn't important, but reading certainly helps. If you're unsatisfied with what you're writing (or struggling to write at all, or just find yourself writing the same things) try reading some more. Pick out any ideas or techniques that you liked (and try to work out why you liked them) and see if they can be used to inspire new writing. And whilst you're taking the time to consider someone else's work, why not leave them some feedback?

Add a Comment:
Euxiom Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2013
Nice article! I see we have similar taste in quotes. :P
Sleyf Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Nice job with the quotes *BrokenTales they fit really nicely with what's being said! :clap: and i agree wholeheartedly with all points, I think the world would be a lot more boring if there was nothing being written (a lot of films wouldn't have been made!) reading doesn't just inspire writing, it can inspire film, music, art, so much, it's just a different form of inspiration
BrokenTales Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2013   Writer
PursuingTheCerberus Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2013  Professional Writer
I really enjoyed this and agree wholeheartedly on each section. Loved the quotes! Thank you for sharing this!
MajorasMasks Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
Really true... I started writing since one of the things I love most is reading, after all. :)
BrokenTales Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2013   Writer
I've not yet met a writer who didn't love to read, but I have met a couple who had forgotten that they love to read.
jessoterick Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2013  Student Filmographer
<3 Accurate, and well thought out. ^^
juniorel Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2013   Writer
I was waiting for that quote by Stephen King to pop up, and there it is! And if anyone's curious, I believe it's from his book On Writing. Read it. It's good, not too instructional, but very inspirational.
Mirrasae Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2013   Writer
Well said. Thank you for sharing this.
BrokenTales Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2013   Writer
Thank-you. It was a pleasure.
mirz333 Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2013   General Artist
Narutotoro Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2013
I read Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Spiderwick Chronicles, Guardians of Childhood. For me, writing fantasy is easy because the ideas are unlimited and the logic is unbound, as long as the plot is good. That's why I read these books.

I'm also a big fan of Zelda games and am pretty much familiar with the most of the games and the stories they have. The inspiration to my writing and the plots I come up with are usually from the things I see in the events. E.g. in Majora's Mask, I'm thinking "what would happen if Ganondorf got his hands on it?" or in Wind Waker, "does the Bermuda Triangle have any connection to Hyrule?" Questions like these lead to a plot idea that I write in a synopsis for the actual story later, then I get right to work on the story itself. Then I change a few things in the plot when it's necessary and read Zelda Wiki articles and other forms of research when I'm stuck.

Being mentally ill, I talk to myself, most of that time I tell myself stories (from the things I read and watch), which are mostly just RP. So even though I'm not proud of my mental illness, it has its advantages. I love stories and storytelling and I got plenty of practice from the combination of reading/watching and my random RPing ticks.

So far, I only wrote two fanfics (the second is still incomplete), but they're pretty big fics. I don't know if I'll be writing another one after that, but you never know! :reading:

(What if Aku disguised himself as a Twili? :lol:)
BrokenTales Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2013   Writer
One of the good things about fan fiction is how it is (usually) born from something enjoyably read.

Thanks for sharing. :)
Narutotoro Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2013
You're very welcome. :D
PaperbackRevelations Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
So true!
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