Writer = Reader. Right?

After reading Lauren Miller’s piece in Salon and an intelligent response at My Friend Amy’s Book Blog, I began to think a lot about reading as writers. To sum up the issue, Lauren Miller wanted writers to think twice about participating in NaNoWriMo because she believes that putting quantity before quality is irresponsible. She also scolded writers, believing that we should really take the time to read more, not write more. My Friend Amy responded by applauding and encouraging writers who participated in the challenge this month and she brought up an interesting argument: Literacy is a much larger problem and writers are not the target.

Amen.

While I’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo, I am inspired by a month dedicated to novel writing. Maybe everyone does have a novel in them. And what’s the harm in that? Maybe you don’t need to go to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and sit in a dark room for ten years playing the role of tortured writer before birthing a novel.

Do I think that writers who participate need to realize that sitting down to write 50,000 words does not a novel make? Of course! Those who participate should take the time to revise and edit and hone their craft beyond the November frenzy. (Sorry for the public service announcement.)

Not only does it seem irresponsible to discourage a new generation of writers, but accusing an entire community of writers for not reading is offensive.  Because, as far as I can tell, writers are not only reading books, but devouring them whole, plugging them on their blogs, giving away dozens of copies, interviewing authors, participating in campaigns not to ban them, joining online challenges to read more of them, buying more bookshelves to house them, forcing unsuspecting family members to read them, and spending their entire paycheck to buy them. They have to-be-read piles in their homes that are toppling over and to-read lists that are virtually impossible to maintain given the life-span of an average human being.

There are a lot of reasons I love to write. But the biggest one is that I love to read. If I didn’t, I’m not sure why I would want to enter the publishing industry, where salaries are embarrassingly low and new writers aren’t exactly pulling in the kind of seven-figure advance they dream of. In my opinion, an aspiring writer wouldn’t spend the days writing hundreds of thousands of words, spending ridiculous amounts of money on writing conferences, workshops, and fed-ex submissions, crying over hundreds of e-mail and snail mail rejections from magazines, editors, and agents, unless they had an absolute psychotic love of the written word. Because writing, in general, (never mind 50,000 words in 30 days) is INSANE, my friends. And there’s no reason you would do it unless you love books, on certain days, more than your first-born.

But maybe I’m flat-out wrong. Maybe you’ve all never cracked the spine of a book in your life.

Tell me, writers, do you read?

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9 thoughts on “Writer = Reader. Right?

  1. I devour books and could not live my life without both writing and reading. In fact, by having a book blog, it is helping me to perfect my writing.

    I think that reading all genres of novels, should be essential research for any writer. The reason is because by reading other author's work, it helps you to learn about structure, characterisation, plot and vocabulary. Then, you can apply some of these things, to your own writing. Also by putting yourself into the perspective of a reader, when you write, you will have better knowledge of the things that would/wouldn't work for your audience.

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  2. “My name is Gina and I am a bookworm.”

    I panic when I think I'm going to run out of things to read! I always have a book with me, often tucked under one arm, just in case. I can't imagine living without books. You know Alice and the Dormouse? “For me to live is to read and to read is to live”. Just ask my family!

    Mind you, although I'm doing Nano I'm not a writer, any more than everyone who runs the marathon is an athlete. So maybe I don't count?

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  3. Of course! I love to read. I can see why someone would think Nano is irresponsible in its goals, but it's akin to saying that all people in the midwest live with cows. Sometimes it's true; mostly it's not.

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  4. Great post, Melissa and I nodded in agreement all the way!

    I'm not participating in NaNo either but I'm using the month to focus more on my writing. I think that it's probably great for people who procrastinate or have difficulty making time. NaNo makes them sit down and get on with it. Of course, they will edit and shape afterwards.

    As to reading, Stephen King, in his book 'On Writing' said that there are two things you must do if you want to be a writer: write a lot and read a lot. I find it hard to conceive of anyone wanting to write if they don't already read.

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  5. I love to read! It's the only way to get better at this writing thing!

    I think there's a lot of NaNo hate out there because it's an easy target. And yes, there are people who don't know know a thing about the industry who will just dash off a book and then send it out on December 1st, but I do think NaNo is a great motivational tool for writers. And writers do need support from other writers. It sucks sitting all lonely at your desk night at after. Sometimes you just need to talk to other people who understand!

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  6. If B & N gave out frequent flyer miles I'd have a free trip to Africa this year! (And it's not because I drink fancy coffees…) I love books!

    I'm not doing NaNo. I have too much going on this month…I flip around from project to project, so I don't know how I'd keep track of my word count???

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  7. I am not a NaNo participator, but am both a reader and a writer – from the age of five! If you are a writer, then that is a compulsion and a part of yourself which should not be denied. it is nothing to do with being a reader. I do agree with Lisa's comment:

    'I love to read! It's the only way to get better at this writing thing!'

    The two, in my opinion, go together. How can you write if you have not read?? And would you wnat to?

    I amd writing a trilogy (for children aged 8-10. It is illustrated and I am around chapter 4 of the final book and am illustrating the second book. The first is 'out there'. Many hours, months, years build up to this … and much money … but the satisfaction and joy are worth it all.

    Great post!

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  8. I agree with Aguja, why would you even have an interest in writing a book, if you don't have any passion for reading?

    Anyone whose naive enough to think that anyone can reel off a best selling novel, without having any knowledge of the industry they are embarking on and expect to earn millions, is going to find themselves very disappointed.

    Writing is very time consuming, hard work and sometimes exasperating. However writing is in my blood, it's just something that I have to do.The same goes with reading books.

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  9. Great post. Of course we read!!! Whenever I'm stuck on my own writing, which is a lot, reading is the only way I get out of my funk.

    NaNo is great for meeting goals for some people. Also, the process of writing itself changes a person. I keep telling my students, “It's good for you!” Here's to encouraging more writing!

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