Two Things

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
Stephen King

Full disclosure: “I’ve seen the movies Misery (most of it, anyway) and The Green Mile, which I thought was a terrific story, but I’ve never actually read one of scintillating Stephen’s books. Except, that is for his inspiring guide, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, which holds a cozy spot on my shelf of cherished writing handbooks.

Dipping into On Writing tonight, I happened on an ode to the importance to writers of reading widely and constantly. Whether we read simply because we love storytelling or with a more analytical eye, in King’s view, “there’s a learning process going on.” Every book offers lessons we can use to hone our own craft — and often, says King, bad writing is even more valuable as a learning tool than wonderful writing is: in fact we need both to sharpen our technique.

Bad writing is encouraging according to King because when we read something lousy, our response is likely to be, “Hey, I can write better than that!” Feeling that we can do as well or even better than someone else who’s already in print is empowering: it can give us a real psychic boost. Spotting flimsy characters, plot problems or stylistic tics can also help us avoid them: learning what not to do can be incredibly useful in sharpening skills and building confidence.

On the other hand, good writing is like a crash course in everything we aspire to master: appealing, believable characters; style and voice; plotting and narrative flow. While reading a classic like Grapes of Wrath can make us envious, it can also push us to work harder. As King puts it: “Being swept away by a combination of great story and great writing — of being flattened, in fact — is part of every writer’s necessary formation.”

Writing and reading: sounds like a recipe for a great life! Let’s just be sure we do both in generous doses all the time. I have to admit, I sometimes overheat the reading and undercook the writing. How about you?

About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
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