I have heard people say that you can’t be a good writer if you do not read, read, and then read some more.
Well, that all depends on what you are writing, and how you choose to learn your craft. If you set out to write a novel, then yes, it might be foolish to have never picked up a piece of fiction and read it through. It’s a good investment for writers to spend the time looking at what other writers have produced. But, if you’re like me, perhaps you don’t need to take the act of ‘reading’ as literally as it sounds.
I am dyslexic.
I don’t enjoy reading novels. I can just about get through when reading non-fiction; something that is instructive, something I’m reading because I need to know how to get from A to B. But reading stories, no matter their quality, no matter how gripping their plot and characters, is a struggle. It feels like hard work, and it feels like I am being forced to wade through words, when all I want to do is close my eyes and let them slide into my mind effortlessly, like music. I envy people who can get through a couple of books a week. It must be a joy to read for pleasure. But some of us don’t find it so enjoyable. So, to those people, as I say, it’s fine to take the advice, but don’t take it so literally. There are other possibilities.
What I mean is, what can reading be for people who struggle with the process? What is reading, to you?
It can be a number of things. ‘Reading’ can be listening (audio-books, radio dramas, radio comedy, recorded stand-up sets, pod casts, and so on) and it can be watching (movies, TV dramas, comedies, and the endless amount of audio-visual fiction and factual available online). ‘Reading’ can mean engaging in discussion and debate, listening to a lecture, watching a play, hearing an influential speaker, observing the sounds and sights around you, anywhere, any time.
There is a reason that The Scriptwriters Academy has a YouTube channel, and a reason you are able to contact the author directly.
Because reading is not just sitting down and diving into a good book. Read what you love. Read in the way that supports your learning, and read the things that are a joy to ‘read’ – whatever form they may take.
To close this blog entry, I am going to publish a short monologue of mine, which was performed as part of Whispering Theatre, at 2013’s DYSPLA festival. (A festival which showcases the work of dyslexic artists and story makers). Be Loud!
Be Loud! By Melanie Hunter
“I firmly believe that if you are not a reader, you will never be a good writer. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.”
That’s what she said. And because it was written and published, people will believe it.
Y’know, we might not like to think about it, but we grow up believing people for reasons like: they’re older than us, they’re teaching us, they’re successful or powerful, or charismatic.
But what if I believed her? What if other people like me still believe her? What if you do? I mean, I dunno, you might agree. You’re free to, of course.
But… “Never”, she said. You’ll NEVER be a good writer if you’re not a reader. No room for argument. Would you argue with that?
I mean, she’s an intelligent lady. She’s successful. She seems to know the industry. It would be very easy to believe her.
But then I remember…
A wide vocabulary doesn’t always equal an inspiring story. The written word is not the only place to be moved by the creation of a beautiful, flawed character, or lost in a powerful journey. Attention to detail doesn’t just mean constructing the perfect sentence.
I want to tell people not to believe her. Especially those like me: the non-readers who write anyway; with passion, inspired by story, spoken word, a visual world, the world of feeling… of being moved.
I want to tell them: read stories if you love to read. But if it hurts, and if the words scramble in front of you, stop. Look around and be inspired by other things. The world is vast, and creativity – immeasurable.
I want to remind them to forget the ‘how’ and remember the ‘what’. How you write is only a means to an end, but what you write, and what you create, and the passion and guts it takes to expose the ‘what’ to the world… that’s where you should live.
I want to stand up and tell them to live inside the things that they believe.
Because you know what?
We’re louder than we think.