I love reading – always have, although I did go through a period of, ooh, close to two decades where I didn’t read more than a couple of books a year. I intended to read, I even wanted to read but somehow just didn’t seem to get round to it.
All that changed a couple of years ago though when I got a kindle (well, I nicked my husband’s if I’m honest) and found myself going from book to book. I read any time, anywhere… in the dark while breastfeeding, while drying my hair, even when brushing my teeth. I never thought I would give up paper for an electronic device but I have to admit it revolutionised my reading life. In the past two years I’ve read well over a hundred books which I don’t think is bad going!
Anyway, this is my #WhatImWriting post – what does any of this have to do with what I’ve been writing this week? Well everything and nothing. It’s occurred to me that my increased reading pace has co-incided exactly with the period of my life when I decided to pursue my dream to become a published writer. These past two-and-a-bit years have been a major voyage of discovery for me in the literary world both as a writer and a reader.
So maybe the gear change in my reading wasn’t all about getting my hands on a kindle, maybe some of it was to do with just launching myself into another part of life? Then just as the more I wrote the more I wrote (writing breeds writing, right?), the more I read the more I read… and then the more I wrote the more I read, and the more I read the more I wrote (phew!) and it all piled up into a huge bonfire of magical worlds and other lives with sparks of creativity flying around in every direction.
And now the bonfire is ablaze and I’m dancing round it clutching books and journals and pens (and electronic devices but that doesn’t really fit with the image I’m trying to conjure up, so forget that bit) and toasting my hands before a fiery fictional frenzy.
Anyway, I can certainly say I’m learning a lot from my reading and that’s not just – or at all – because I’m reading great serious works of literature it’s because my brain is constantly assessing everything it’s engaging with. Some books I love, some books I… tolerate but along the way there’s loads I’m learning about style and narrative and what works and what doesn’t.
Actually a brilliant learning experience for me recently was reading a book so badly written it was like a massive, flashing, neon sign saying “DO NOT WRITE LIKE THIS. EVER.” And I’m convinced it’s not just a matter of taste (because some books don’t work for me but I still can see that they’re well-written and others might like them) I really think it was just weak. It read like a first draft that needed editing (and to be fair, perhaps with some decent editing and story re-shaping it could have been fine), so much so that I actually found myself editing it as I read it – good practice for when I finally get to the editing stage of my book!
The best thing about reading though is being transported to other worlds and different lives where there are adventures to be had, mysteries to be solved, great emotions to be tussled with, tears to be shed and laughs to be sprinkled all around. As a reader, books transform my life, as a writer they are my biggest source of inspiration.
How about you – do you read much? What impact do you think it has on your writing?