29 June 2011

Reading at the Soul of Writing

Today is Writing Wednesday. I should logically be sharing some precious nugget related to writing that I managed to find in the course of living a life when I barely have time to breathe. There must be something, and even if there is nothing, I could speak about why I have not even attempted the Burrow Novel Writing Month Challenge. But everytime I have sat down to write this post, only one idea has floated into my mind, and that has to do not with Writing, but with Reading. And since it refuses to go away, I have no choice but to write about it.

The truth universally recognised is that unless you are a Reader, it is unlikely that you can call yourself a Writer. It is by reading that you assimilate the ideas, structures, thoughts and techniques which are needed to become a Writer. But does the converse hold? 

If you are a writer, does that mean you are also a good reader? Logically yes, but in reality, I wonder. The other day, I was witness to a long exchange on something unrelated to writing. Two people had been arguing about something, and since both were supposedly talking about something else while carrying on their altercation, I told them both that it may be best to open up a discussion specifically on that topic. They agreed long enough to decide which of them would start the discussion off. The first post was a mature one- the writer had tried his best to present both sides, though it was clear where his sympathies lay. The other person responded underlying his contention- another reasonably mature post. And after that the discussion degenerated. The first person kept shouting his viewpoint, the second person his. Both were yelling at each other, neither bothered to listen to what the other was saying, and when new people joined the discussion, they chose sides and continued just adding their voice to the cacophony. After a lot of shouting and yelling, both parties decided to call off the debate.

As a bystander, I could only marvel at the entire exchange. Beautiful pieces of prose, coherently and elegantly offering up their opinions. Responses in equally forceful language. It should have been good, except, it was not because while everyone was busy writing, nobody was reading. 

Had either party read what the other wrote, they would have found loopholes, and might even have been able to win. But they chose not to read, and therefore got nowhere.

As we struggle towards finishing the writing we have each embarked on, can we make a pledge? That even while we write, we will also read, listen and assimilate. As writers, we owe it to other writers that their words are read, and their thoughts interpreted. And there is no better way of improving as a writer than by reading.


Jan Morrison said...

All I can say is yes. YES YES YES. Now back to reading.

Wild Child said...

I think that debate actually also goes along with actually listening to another's viewpoint. Unfortunately, I am guilty of this myself. I turn off the viewpoint being spouted on the TV because I've decided already it doesn't fit with my worldview and everything they argue is just crap. I hate living in this kind of world. I miss the people who would discuss things, concede some points on EACH side and then come to a consensus which we can all live with.