Two bizarre statements I heard this week from aspiring writers:
1) I never read that author because I’m too jealous of his writing.
2) I don’t read contemporary literature because I don’t want it to spoil my own writing
I can hear the resounding intake of breath from here, so let me deal with each of these separately and then I’ll let you say your piece.
I never read that author because I’m too jealous of his writing.
What sense does that make? Surely you read the authors you enjoy so that you can learn from them? Avoiding your favourite writers won’t make your own writing process any easier, and you lose out on some valuable learning. Keep up to date with the writers that you would like to emulate. It’s not copying, it’s infusing good technique, style and quality prose into your own writing. It’s called self improvement. Try it!
I don’t read contemporary literature because I don’t want it to spoil my own writing.
Rather than spoil your writing, reading your contemporaries should inform your work. How can you learn anything about what people like to read, the publishing industry and good technique if you avoid reading current literature? Reading is an important part of any writer’s life and is one of the best forms of education. Why miss out? Also consider this: if you don’t enjoy reading contemporary literature, why are you trying to write it?
In my mind, both of the above statements are the result of creative jealousy – and like any form of jealousy, this leads to destructive and detrimental situations for the person involved. Without knowledge, learning and the motivation to evolve, any aspiring writer will remain exactly that. In short, unpublished.
My advice to any other aspiring writers who want a successful writing career is to make use of the resources around you, including contemporary literature. Don’t succumb to creative jealousy. Read like a writer, soak up the language and technique and see where it leads your own writing journey.
What are you reading at the moment and how does it influence you as a writer?