As a writer, one must read. There are so many reasons of this but for me it’s a case of getting the ideas moving — the giant fan stirring up the words like tokens in the Dome at the end of the Crystal Maze TV show so you can plunge in and try to grab the gold tokens from the air, while avoiding the silver ones which have negative value. In a sense, that is writing to me, madly whirling around in a place full of fluttering glittering ideas and trying desperately to grab the good ones.
Ideas come from everywhere, it’s true. They are all around us every day. But more than anything else, ideas come from other books. Carl Sagan said that when you open a book and begin to read another voice is whispering to you, from across centuries, across boundaries of nationality, race, gender and experience. We’re hearing the words of another, words carefully thought out and crafted, telling you a story, passing on a message. Sharing.
To be well-read, I always imagine, is to be the person who scores highly on those “100 books you must read lists”, who knows who won the Hob-nob prize in 1992 (yes I made that up. At lease I hope I did), who wafts through a bookshop picking up only the best, the most prestigious, the “important” books.
Oh, this is so not me.
I read what I love. I read the things that grab me and won’t let go. I read the books that don’t seem like a chore (I did enough of that in college), that make me ignore TV, or hunger, or anything else really. The books that keep me up at night going “just one more paragraph, one more page, one more chapter”. I read the books that make my family look to see how many pages I have left before trying to interrupt. Luckily I have a family who understand that “I’ve only 20 pages to go!” is a valid reason for making anyone wait. They do it too, of course. It’s hereditary.
And I want to write those books too. I think all writers should. Write what you love. Write what you need to read. Write the book that will not leave you alone, that wakes you up just as you’re falling asleep to say “I have this amazing idea!”
Reading is a superpower, the ability to bring words on paper to life in your mind, to get so emotionally embroiled in a story that it takes over. Writing is the same, because if you aren’t obsessed with this story, with these characters, how can you expect that magic to work on someone else? It’s hard work, but so rewarding, especially when you seek out the stories that you need to tell, that you ache to write.
I am not well-read, but I read what I love.