Sunday, November 27, 2011

Should writers read?

Joe Lansdale is one of my favorite writers. And recently on his facebook page ( He has been generously offering notes on how to write.

He argues that one should read and read extensively if one wishes to write. I agree, but am well aware that not all writers agree with me.

Here's my full thoughts (of the moment only) on the matter.

I've been thinking about this note for a few hours now. I agree but have a friend who is a more successful writer than me who disagrees. And when we discuss it this moderately widely published author refers to his friend, the widely published author, and says he says it too. In fact, the he quotes the widely published writer as saying "I don't like to read. It wastes time. I can write a book faster than I can read one." But I've been thinking about these philosophies. I think it hinges on one's motivation for writing.

We who write must ask ourselves why we write. And when I watch other writers I try to understand what motivates them. I think this moderately successful friend is largely motivated by a desire to show his intelligence and prove he can do something few other people can do. He is a very interesting man with many varied accomplishments. But I suspect that a few years after his success plateaus, wherever and whenever it plateaus, he will move on to some other endeavor perhaps writing music (I can see hints of this.) As for his widely published friend, he writes for money, plain and simple and probably makes a great deal.

So I think it comes down to motivation for writing. If one is motivated by a love of literature and a desire to get ideas and images and views out to others through the medium of writing (versus films or comics or singing punk rock or something) and you (naively) really do hope to expand the field of literature a little with your own personal contribution and inspire others not just to tell you your are great but to go out and change the world a little after exposure to your writing then I believe one needs to read, and not just write.

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