In a book club discussion, not too long ago, someone said, “I don’t read fiction. It’s just a waste of time.” The remark stung me a bit because I read a lot of fiction. But as is usually my wont I did not say anything at the time because, maybe, the person was right. Maybe reading fiction was a waste of time.
I had, however, forgotten all about the discussion and was merrily going on with my fiction reading routine, until something brought the subject back to my attention. Not surprisingly, I turned to the Internet for answers and found that reading fiction, especially literary fiction, made you a better person indeed. There is even a published study and a review that talk about how reading fiction is good for you, even more than reading non-fiction.
My faith in fiction being restored, I then decided to look into my own experiences to figure out how reading has helped me.
They always say that writers should read. “They,” of course, referring to the infinitely famous and notoriously vague entity that determines what should and should not be done. Pronouns aside, the advice is solid. Reading enables writers to learn more about their craft by seeing what was successful for others. At the beginning, many writers start off their projects by imitating the styles of successful writers before they develop their own–imitation stemmed from reading the works of authors they admire. Along the way, writers can gain inspiration through reading the works of others in their genre, or gain insight into a new genre that writer is considering branching into.
I feel it’s safe to say that reading and writing go hand in hand. Hell, half of us were inspired to go into writing through our passion for reading. However, I would not say that “simply reading” is always enough. In order for a writer to truly gain anything (other than the enjoyment of a good story) from reading, she must read not like a reader, but like a writer.
When I started writing, I strongly believed that I was writing only for myself. I thought that it did not matter if anyone read what I wrote – as long as I continued to write. Naturally, for a long time, I was the only one reading what I wrote. But, I didn’t care.
Then, one day, I was in conversation with another writer who asked me a simple question: If I was writing only for myself, why was I even writing?
What he meant was that writing is essentially a way to communicate – a way to make others see what you see, and how you see it. If you are going to be the only one to read what you have written, then you need not write at all.
I realised, then, that I wanted to write because I wanted to be READ… and when I said, I did not care if anyone was reading what I wrote, I was wrong.