SO, WHAT DO YOU READ?
“SO, WHAT DO YOU READ?” I asked an aspiring author when she visited me at the office the other day. She looked like a very well-read person to me.
“I don’t really read nowadays, you know. I have done all the reading I need in school and, anyway, I don’t really have the time for it now,” she answered, nonchalantly and without the slightest hesitation. “I have been an English-language teacher all my life. I don’t think I really need to learn how to write,” she continued. Wow, that was profound!
I was flabbergasted because I always thought writers should always read more than they write.
Sadly, most writers don’t think like a reader because they do not read enough. That’s what I always thought—and believed in. And still believed in. Wasn’t it Samuel Johnson, the English lexicographer, who said that he “disliked conversing with a man who has written more than he has read.”
I took a look at her manuscript. The grammar and syntax were all in a puddle of murkiness. The opening wasn’t memorable at all. The paragraphs were disjointed. The characters did not connect with me at all. Clichés abounded, one after another. I started recalling my good pal’s advice for writers: “Go back to the basics: read, read, read, read and read. Of all the writers that I admire, not one went to writing school. They taught themselves how to write by reading everything that had ever been written. They were able to dismantle the books they’d read, whether consciously or unconsciously, in order to understand what made the writing work.” Sterling advice for aspiring writers surely.
So, what’ve you been reading lately?
Roy Hayes is the author of The Hungarian Game (1973) and two novels-in-progress, “The Last Days of Las Vegas” and “Big Gap.” He lives in Henderson, Nevada, U.S.