I don’t read enough. It shames me to admit it, but it’s true. After a full workday which consists largely of reading manuscripts, the thought of more reading at 11 p.m. is as unappealing as … well … writing. But that’s a shameful blog post for another time.
It’s not that I never read. It’s that I don’t read as often as I’d like. How not often? Well, now you’re just being nosy. Let’s just say that, in the cage fight of my life, Netflix kicks reading’s ass 9 times out of 10.
The two natural results of my end-of-the-day laziness are: 1.) the books I want to read don’t get read, and 2.) I feel like a hypocritical fool.
“If you want to succeed at writing, you must read!” I scold WriteByNighters on a daily basis. Yet here I sit beside a pile of books that’s been here so long it has become furniture. This simply will not do.
I won’t bore you with a complete list of reading’s various merits for a writer, but I will mention a few of the most necessary.
Old Habits Die Hard
All writers have bad habits—an affinity for exclamation points, for example, the overuse of adverbs, or the dreaded passive voice. Bad habits would be broken by Justine if she read widely, regularly, and voraciously!!! A writer’s awareness of these tendencies is often not enough to avoid them. We need to couple this awareness with working examples of prose that sings.
Know What You Like
We all have different styles. If we didn’t, how boring the library shelves would be. Developing your unique style and voice is key to succeeding in your literary pursuits, and you can’t know what you like—and what you don’t—if you refuse to expose yourself to options.
Inspiration is Ready and Waiting
When clients are having trouble putting pen to paper, I often suggest that they read for half-an-hour before sitting down to write. It puts you in a literary space, and makes room for ideas. Reading makes you want to write. Simple as that.
If you’re still not convinced that reading is important to a writer’s development, let’s talk. If you’re on board, it’s time for the part of the post you weren’t expecting.
Instead of being satisfied to complain about my literary shortcomings, I’m actually going to do something about it. Finally. Finally. Here’s what I propose:
We come together, WriteByNighters, for a WBN-blog-based book club. For each round, a leader will be assigned. This leader will not only choose the book, but blog about his/her reactions, thoughts, opinions, ideas, etc. We’ll read and post in manageable chunks—a chapter or section per week—and fellow book club members will respond via the comments section below. In this way, we’ll help each other to read more and think critically about what we’re reading. Heck, these activities may even inform our writing. Huzzah!
I’ll be happy—ecstatic, even—to lead the charge on the first round. I’ll even take book requests.
So what do you think? Are you with me? Is this the coolest idea since sliced bread, or am I just plain crazy? I suspect the former, but will accept the latter. Please let me know below.
WriteByNight owner Justine Tal Goldberg is an award-winning writer and editor of both fiction and nonfiction. Her short stories have appeared in Anomalous Press, Whiskey Island, Fringe Magazine, and other publications. Her journalistic work has appeared in Publishing Perspectives, Austin Monthly and the Texas Observer, among others. She holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College.