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.
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?