Reading OR writing. Keep one, lose one. What would you pick?
When I was making the decision to major in Creative Writing in college, one of my biggest fears was that studying the subject would take the joy out of reading. Thankfully, the exact opposite happened. I’m a very slow reader because as I read, I am constantly thinking about writing. I pay attention to sentence structure, word choice, dialogue tricks, pacing, characterization and a thousand other aspects. I want nothing more than to soak in every detail of the story as well as the writing and if I zipped through a hundred pages an hour, that wouldn’t happen.
When I write, I don’t necessarily think about what I’ve learned from my reading but subconsciously it plays its part. Last summer when I got on a Don DeLillo kick, I caught myself imitating his writing style. I didn’t notice it until revision but that alone is proof that what we read affects ours writing.
If I choose to drop writing forever would reading lose its meaning? I could still enjoy the stories but I would no longer need that notebook at my side scribbling down page numbers and notes. Reading would become one-dimensional entertainment; something to be tossed aside once the last page was flipped.
Probably the most common advice for aspiring writers is simply this: read and read a lot. We learn to write by reading. So if I was to give up reading in order to keep writing, how would I improve? Would my learning be limited to dry textbooks? How would I know the trends of the market? How would I know where to send my stuff for publication if I am unable to read what they have published previously? Without reading, writing would become incredibly hard.
How am I to pick one when neither is same without the other?
Twist my arm today I would choose reading. Twist my arm tomorrow and I could very likely choose writing.