Writing Without Reading?

Wanting to write without wanting to read is like wanting to ____ without wanting to ____.

That’s the premise this Salon.com article put forward in discussing the rise of wannabe writers who aren’t avid readers. I know, right? How could you have any desire to write if you don’t like reading? And doesn’t that mean you wouldn’t want to read your own work?

The article’s author very validly points out that, unlike writing, which is practically the equivalent of simultaneously opening a vein and banging your head against a brick wall, reading is largely effortless, calming, inspiring and, frankly, fun:

Reading, on the other hand, is not a struggle. It is an utter pleasure. And it is in this pleasure where I first took up the challenge of writing, in trying to emulate the wordsmiths whose stories possessed me so completely that the rest of the world would fade away so long as I kept turning the pages and allowed their words to fuel my imagination.

I mean, what inspired them to write if not an incredible writer whose work they’d read? And who’d want the pain of writing without the pay-off fun of reading?

I’ve always, unequivocally, wanted to be a writer. I just said vet in the early days because I didn’t know that someone could be paid to do something so incredible and as—occasionally, when the muse is playing fair—fun as putting words on a page. But that writing career was inspired by a love of words and letters and ideas introduced to me through reading. How else, I really want to know, could you get there?

Steve Himmer, quoted in this Salon.com article takes it one step more profound:

…I can’t help but remember that reading—both the careful selection of books and being given enough privacy to quietly read them myself—was among the first freedoms I had.

The article’s author continues the deep-thinking philosophical bent: ‘Humanity,’ he says, ‘is losing its ability to be alone with nothing but our thoughts.’

Hmmm, puzzling thoughts for a Tuesday, and ones that both perplex and frustrate me. What do you reckon? Can you be a writer without being a reader? Why would you want to be? And do you have any suggestions for filling in the above blanks—I haven’t yet come up with anything particularly clever.

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Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.

3 thoughts on “Writing Without Reading?”

  1. As and English language teacher, I can say that this is like wanting to teach English to ‘foreigners’ without wanting to learn how to teach English…They just think anyone can do it and it couldn’t be further from the truth…

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