Readers And Writers: Your Input Needed

Given that quite a few people who read this diary blog are either avid readers or themselves writers, I thought I’d ask a few questions about people’s reading habits and your views on the art and science of reading.

In my youth I was a voracious reader. In the middle part of the life I’ve lived so far, I used to read much less. Now I again find myself reading, but not as large a volume of material as I did while young. Some of the reading I’ve done is about reading, and it leads me to want to know what other readers (and writers who are also readers) think. So here goes:

1. Is there a definite volume of reading that is required for a good life? This partly relates to my knowledge that, if you’re going to play hold’em poker seriously, you need to do one hour of study and review for every four hours you play. Do you have to do an hour of reading for every hour you write? And if you don’t write, does a minimum amount of reading alter your consciousness and nourish other aspects of what you do?

2. Does it matter what you read? You probably already know, from having read my post on The Anatomy of a Serene Moment, that I believe the raw passage of time automatically provides us all the experience we need no matter what it is we actually do. Is the same true for reading, in the sense that it doesn’t matter what we read as long as we’re reading something?

3. Is there such a thing as meat and poison for readers? This applies also to readers who don’t write, but applies especially to writers. I’ve heard it said many times that each writer has a unique reaction to certain written works, with some nourishing her own writing, others stunting it or causing blocks, and yet others having no noticeable effect. Do you believe that to be true as a writer? And if you’re not a writer, do you find that certain writing nourishes your other activities, other reading has no effect, and yet other reading has a negative impact on it?

4. What is the ratio of the reading you do because you want to read something, to the reading you do because you are obligated to read something by work, school, or other obligations? How does this ratio affect your view of reading and your reading habits?

Thanks for all responses.

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7 thoughts on “Readers And Writers: Your Input Needed

  1. 1. Volume, and 2. What:

    What is a “good life”?

    I don’t think that being a mentally-stimulated lifelong learner is a top priority in their good life of most. If other aspects of my own life were richer, perhaps it wouldn’t rank so highly in mine. But I suspect it would.

    If you are not regularly–e.g. weekly–reading well-researched and objective news sources, you are ignorant of developments in the world–in politics, science, medicine, technology, art, history, world views–and have a greater chance to be ignorant of the facts or lack of same behind rumors, commonly-held beliefs, and marketing ploys (including political tactics).

    Television/internet viewing alone does not an informed person make (though Colbert Report, Tavis Smiley, et. al. plus TED help a lot).

    My current picks: The Week, Mother Jones, NPR News, and something rabidly right-wing but fact-based to balance all that (e.g. In California, the California Political Review will do).

    Toss in the NYT op eds, as long as you read the top few Picks of comments to have the gaping holes and biases in the piece pointed out for you 🙂

    3. Meat/Poison

    I believe that for me it’s true–that my writing quality has remained cliche-ridden and limited or awkward in its vocabulary and sentence structures because of my favored reading. Huh. Maybe THAT’s why I’ve blogged for years and still have less than 100 followers/20 active readers! 🙂

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  2. 1. I read as much as I can, but I write much more.
    2. I read blogs, fiction, newspaper articles… I get the most out of reading fiction though, in regards to my craft.
    3. (and to finish #1) Yes, it definitely. If I read “crap” I write like crap. Badly written fiction in the form of poor grammar, passive voice, too many adjectives and adverbs etc. rubs off on me without my realizing it, and days can go by before I read it back to myself and find I need to edit every sentence. Good fiction, on the other hand, influences my writing in a good way.
    4. I read mostly what I want to. I have done some beta reading for friends, and I attended some courses last year and the year before, but apart from that I really have no demands on my reading time.

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  3. 1) I think this would depend on the individual.
    2) What I read matters a lot. If it is a bad ending, I feel my time to be wasted. If poorly written, I feel my money is wasted. If I am negatively impacted, emotionally, then I shouldn’t read it. When I was a child I was reading things that I should never have read at that age. I can brainwash myself, by immersing myself in a reading topic. So I do discriminate.
    3) Some things deaden my creative thought. I write better with emotion, so pieces that leave me emotionally dead or feeling bleak are not helpful for inspiration.
    4) 90% of my time reading is reading what I want to, rather than what I should be reading for research or educational purposes. If my job required it, it would be another matter. But I read to relax, and no matter how I try to reach for what I should, I read what I like instead. So I have a stack of non fiction to get through.

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  4. I don’t think that there is a Golden Circle when it comes to reading. I am a voracious reader and have been since I was a little child (I do not remember learning to read, I just apparently did it one day). I read everything from serial crime novels to Buddhist Scripture (that being study as I practice Buddhism). I do recall having a great deal of trouble when I was 13 and was trying to read “Dune”, but once you get past the first 120 pages or so, you are off on an adventure. That is what reading has always done for me. It takes me out of own head, and lets me go play somewhere else.

    As far as writing goes, I have been writing for about 31 years or so. The only time I have trouble is if the topic is assigned and it doesn’t thrill me, or if it is “writing prompt”. I write when I feel like it and about subjects of my choosing. Granted, this does not hold true for writing in school. I do not think that for me, personally, there is anything that will give me writer’s block where I can’t think of something to write about. I sometimes simply do not feel like writing, and it can last a few days or a month. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have ideas, I lack the motivation to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

    I don’t know if that answers your questions.

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    1. Indeed it does. You read a wide variety of material. Do you believe variety is important? I knew a guy whose personal library was at least 25% books he considered terrible, and who read bad books precisely so he’d have good taste. What’s your opinion of that?

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    2. Dune is just like that, then! I was reading it at nine and had exactly the same problem in the beginning of it. I always thought if I had waited until thirteen, I would have done better with the initial comprehension. Maybe not.

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