Guilty. They will tell you how important it is to read. To be a writer. They will tell you how you need to hone your writing skills, every day. Every waking hour. Making you feel guilty about how much reading, you actually don’t end up doing.
Readers. You go to a book group and all you hear is how many books they are reading or finished reading already. It’s like a marathon. And every one wants to devour books like maniacs. That’s the world of a bibliophile. And many of us, writers are just that. We’re readers. Bibliophiles. Book critics. All wrapped into one.
Honing our skills is essential. Working on our craft is no doubt paramount. But to forget to give up on living is unacceptable.
Reading. If you want to be a good writer, you got to read. And everything you read, helps. In some way. Reading books from any genre improves your writing. Helps you in ideation or in clearing writer’s blocks. It opens your mind to experimenting with different forms of writing and in introducing new twists to old ways of story telling.
So there’s no way around reading. No alternative. But there’s something else apart from it. And that’s observation. What we observe in life is critical to writing. Our experiences. Our trials and tribulations build our identity as writers. Strengthens our voice as an author. Makes our writing relatable.
The criticality of observing and observing well cant be understated. To me it’s more important than reading. Observing is vital. Being part of life and its promises and challenges can enrich one’s writing.
To me a good book is about two things: a good plot and well-etched characters. You see, a plot can be incubated in a writer’s mind. But characters can be made believable only through observation. And observation here entails, hearing people speak. Noticing how they talk. Like their intonation, nuances, accents, colloquialisms, curse words — all of it.
Caught in the act. So if you catch yourself looking at the sky from your window. Feel jubilant. Not unhappy or guilty. If you shut your laptop and look out at the people walking by from the café, where you go every day to write, smile. If you spend a day just chatting with your friend — celebrate. If you find yourself chasing your toddler, laugh. And after you’ve done all of that — write.
Life is all of this. And writing comes from it all.
Live to write. I say. Or like Marilyn Von Savant says:
To acquire knowledge; one must study; but to acquire wisdom one must observe.