IF YOU DON’T READ, YOU PROBABLY CAN’T WRITE – Marilyn Armstrong

Blogging Insights # 34 – Reading


QUESTION

Do you think that reading is an important prerequisite for writing well? If so, what kind of reading material inspires or affects your writing?

I never took a writing course. .I never wanted to take a writing course. i was afraid it would damage my ability to write.

I learned to write by reading. By liking this, not liking that. By enjoying this book, not liking another. And, what is more, I had a certain facility with words that started when I was very young. It wasn’t something I learned. It was something I was.

That’s the thing about talent and gifts. They aren’t learned. Courses can help you write better. Improve your grammar, if you feel that better grammar is what your writing needs. It can certainly improve your punctuation, especially if you believe that your previous understanding or lack thereof of punctuation is the problem with  your writing.

I absolutely guarantee that neither of these things is your writing problem. You may not have yet found your “voice.” You might well not know what it is you want to write about. You may not have found the type of writing that suits you. I was sure I was going to be a great novelist. Nope.

I hit my stride in non-fiction. I could write news, features, information, directions, instructions. I am brilliant at explaining complicated things to people who need to understand complex information, but don’t have a technical background. But novels? No amount of grammar or punctuation would help me. I don’t have the ability to create people who live, who jump from the page and become real to a reader.

But that’s okay. Other people do it very well and I love to read.

The capacity to use words was a gift, a talent. In the course of reading everything — I really did read everything I could get my hands on — and trying different kinds of writing, I learned what I was good at. No one was more surprised than I was that technical writing became my forte since I had always considered myself non-technical. But that was before I met computers where I found my spot in the technical universe.

So where does reading come into it? Books are chock full of ideas. You might be amazed at how many great ideas come out of books that have nothing to do with the subject for which the idea is used. Ideas are sneaky little devils and reading fills you up with them.

If everybody read books, we wouldn’t be in half the messes we are in. Reading makes you smarter. Reading helps you find truth. Really. It does.



Categories: #Blogging, #Photography, #Writing, Humor, reading, Words

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16 replies

  1. Reading allows one to experience things, events, actions etc. that one would never entertain to do in real life. I read about horrors in history to learn about what not to do. It’s a big part of the learning experience – to get into the psyche of others.
    Leslie

    Liked by 2 people

    • It broadens experience from “local” to intergalactic. That’s also how we learn real language, not just formal language but how it can be put together to be funny or sad or mysterious. Books teach us how to use words.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Leslie, I agree. Reading also allows you to absorb at your own pace. As for history, that’s binge reading that should range from youth into retirement and beyond.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Garry many years ago I bought this collection of the classics and I’m systematically going through them yet again. Some are a lot better than others. But that’s true of everything.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Leslie, good for you for actually re-reading the classics. I held onto some of my favorites with the intent to reread but haven’t. You are a good role model.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Garry I found the Iliad a real slog. Mankind and the gods were just plain nuts, what with their warring and killing. The Odyssey is a little better. It deals with a lot of low life suitors, after Penelope. Her son Telemachus is young and powerless to oust the bums. Could be a modern day drama.
            Leslie

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I started learning English as a second language when I was 14 or so. One of my teachers’ advice was “Read, read, read”, if I wanted to really master the language. And that’s what I’ve done since. I read a lot –fiction, non-fiction, prose, poetry, plays, both books and periodicals. Both in printed and digital form. Both in Spanish and English. This has helped me tremendously to feel as comfortable expressing myself in either language. So, yes, reading makes us better at speaking and writing as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It also helps keep our aging brains alive and active. Writing AND reading AND (for example) something creative like painting, photography, carpentry, sculpting also helps. If you keep your brain alive, you get to stay alive with it 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Totally agreed. I’m surprised at the number of writers who brazenly claim they don’t have the time to read. Like one of my favourite authors, Dan Abnett says (butchered paraphrasing), “At least understand what experience you’ll get from reading before you go out and write.”

    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I was writing, I had to leave extra time to also read. Because you need to get OUT of your book too and find other words and sometimes, being out of the book helps you think of some other way to say whatever you are trying to say. I really love books. I don’t know how this non-reading generation knows anything. Maybe they don’t know anything?

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    • Stuart, there are folks out there who say —
      “I don’t have time to read because…
      a) they are all crap
      b) they are boring and mundane
      c) I only listen to NPR and watch “Masterpiece Theater”

      They are liars, snobs and ignorant wankers.
      Stuart, I almost automatically distance myself from these folks.

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  4. I agree with you Marilyn. Reading makes us better and smarter.

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