Reading versus Writing


Writing is like weight lifting. If you want to get stronger you have to put in the wo(man) hours. You can’t just think about lifting weights. You can’t take shortcuts or only do half of the routine. However, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can get hurt.

I think the same thing applies to writing. Expect for instead of physically getting hurt, the writer’s ego will suffer from receiving rejection after rejection after rejection. This raises the question “What is most beneficial to writers – writing or participating in workshop or reading books on writing?”

Jennifer Collar McMurrain offers a quote from Sandra Bishop, one of the agents from the OWFI conference. “Read everything, and at least two books totally out of your comfort zone.” Bishop also states, “reading books about writing don’t really help unless our butt is in the chair writing.” Authors must exercise their writing muscle. To see more notes on Bishop’s presentation click here.

People who lift weights put a lot of consideration into their diets. There’s no point in sweating through a work out then going to eat a burger. This is where writing differs. Writers should be gluttons when it comes to the written word. Christine Smith-Jarmola says, “reading any kind of book helps. Even the really badly written ones. They help you see what not to do. I can understand better a concept like point of view from one written wrong than from a bunch written correctly. The incorrect one stands out more and I see how it just doesn’t read right. How it holds up the progression of the story.”

If a writer is interested in reading books on writing, which ones should they read. Dawn Allen suggests, “If you’re going to read a how to book (other than Stephen King’s On Writing) I strongly suggest Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway. The beauty of her book is that she tackles a writing problem and talks about how to tackle that particular issue, and then at the end of that segment, you’ll find 2-3 stories that are excellent examples of that specific skill. Of all the books I read during my two year MFA program, it’s the book that never leaves my writing area because I’m constantly referring back to it.”

Writing, reading, workshops – all three help a writer flesh out their skills when there is a balance between the them. Writers may choose to attend conferences/workshops to learn first-hand from professionals. Writers should read a variety of books to gain a healthy dose of material and information. Most importantly, writers have to sit down, stand or whatever and actually exercise the writing muscle everyday or their writing will grow flabby.

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One comment on “Reading versus Writing

  1. Paper Tiger Press says:

    Ms. Larsen,
    Excellent connection between physical training and training as a writer. I actually do both-weight training and writing-and your observation holds true. You are what you eat, but not necessarily what you read also makes a lot of sense. I live in Japan and my library has a limited number of English titles to chose from, so I have read things I would never have check out. They gave me variety through restriction and now I actually try to mix up my genre reading on purpose to help me learn new ways of using descriptions, emotions and ideas in my own work. Feel free to check out my blog and see my comments on writing, and living in Japan. Thanks for your post, I enjoyed it.

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