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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

IWSG October - Reading and Writing and "What if?"

It's IWSG Day. The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader. The awesome co-hosts for the October  posting of the IWSG are Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Mary Aalgaard, Madeline Mora-Summonte, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor.

This month’s optional question: It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

This question brings to mind a quote from Mark Twain:

There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.

I struggle to imagine a writer who doesn’t enjoy reading. That said, I know some writers choose not to read while they are in the middle of a project. More power to them, I suppose. But I can say unequivocally that reading good writing was how I could become a writer, as it taught me how successful writers formulate the stories I can’t put down.  I read all the time, even when working on a new writing project. Do I worry about taking another writer’s ideas? No. Because my story is my story. It may have a similar theme or formula as another book. Someone reading the result may guess how it ends. But they’ll have no idea how I’ll get there. Per Mark Twain, my kaleidoscope fragments are different from other writers. My writing is based on all the influences in my life, what I know or have experienced, the combination of and impact of which remain unique to me. 

In my mind, we all have the ability to use our imaginations. Anyone can ask the question "What if?"  but to write our own "What if?" variation well, we need know how to get our story on the page in a way that’s readable, logical and intriguing. That means not only knowing the “rules” of writing but also by reading to understand what works for a reader and what doesn’t. 

Stephen King says "If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."

I’m with Stephen. I truly believe that people who chose not to read and attempt to write are blocking themselves from learning and growing. If, while I’m reading, I encounter an unfamiliar style or one that surprises me, then all the better, because it teaches me a different way to consider my own tale. Would I have been able to get my own unique stories on the page in a way that compels readers if I hadn’t read my brains out beforehand? No way, Jose! It would have been like writing in a vacuum. I wouldn’t have had any idea what works.

What are your reading and writing habits?