Not too long ago I was shopping for office supplies in a retail store near me. I like supporting local businesses when I can. I got into a conversation with a clerk. He was young, obviously bright, helpful and somehow I mentioned that I am a freelance writer.
He lit up and told me he too wanted to write. I asked him what he liked to read. Looking a bit startled he said he really didn’t like to read much.
I was equally startled and said something flip suggesting he try reading. Then I said “I don’t know a single successful writer who doesn’t also love to read.”
I can’t imagine a writer who doesn’t read. I read almost anything we find in print, including, if I’m stuck, the backs of milk cartons.
I love mysteries and thrillers. I devour non-fiction on everything from music theory to quantum physics. I read about reading and I read about writing.
I love a good bookstore and am sad we have so few of them any more – I mean physical bookstores. I also love a good newsstand and am fortunate to live within striking distance of the oldest and probably best one in the state.
I check out six or seven books from the library every week, sometimes more.
I start way more books than I finish, for as I’ve gotten older I have less tolerance for characters I don’t care about or information presented in ways that talk down to me or leave me totally confused. But I read.
My kids, now adults, also read because I set an example and because reading was the only thing I ignored after lights out.
Reading informs writing. I suspect I’ve learned way more by example than I ever have from a teacher or a how-to book.
I know books and writing are changing. But my 18-year-old granddaughter who loves gaming, haunts Comic Con and studies game design with an eye toward learning how to write the backgrounds and design the costumes for adventure games is also a voracious reader.
While she laughs at my awkward texting, and knows way more about social media than I even want to know, she reads.
I suspect she will be successful in gaming and in the gaming industry partly, or maybe even mostly, because she also reads well and deeply.
Reading and writing are changing, but they aren’t going away. My hunch is if we came back in 500 words we’d find the creators of that time also reading even if we barely recognized the form.
How much reading do you do?