I've met many writers in my time. At workshops, writers groups and conferences. I am always amazed at their projects, their creativity, their tenacity. Writers are an interesting breed of introverted-extroverts who make up wild and wonderful worlds. We want to share our thoughts on the page but are worried about other people's reactions. We can be so arrogant about our work that we have a hard time accepting the constructive critism we had asked for (I am very guilty of this). In short, writers can be walking contractions fed by a deep connection we have with our emotions and the observations we make about the world around us. This is all part and parcel with living the writer's life.
But there is one contradiction I can not abide by. In addition to meeting excellent writers who are actively honing their craft, I have met many writers who confess to not being readers.
**Cue screeching record player**
You heard me, I have met writers who don't read. And they aren't embarrassed by this fact. They defend themselvesm, usually after seeing my jaw hit the floor, by saying they "don't like being influence" or "they prefer to let the pen just move across the page". Gag me. Really? Okay look honey, if you don't read how do you know what you are writing is any good? If you are not interested in books what makes you think anyone would be interested in yours?
It's very childish if you ask me. I think I held these same beliefs when I was...um... in grade 9! A lot of growing up and a lot of reading has happened since then. My writing is much better and I have a greater understanding of what makes a good description of setting, a good character and, most importantly, a good story.
I am reminded of a journalism professor I had in my college years, whom I respect dearly, who said the single most important thing a writer can do is read. He wrote the words "Read, read, read...." right across the front white board, all around the side of the room until he ran out of white board, and then he moved on to the paper easel and wrote the same word there again and again. He turned to us and said "Read anything you can get your hands on."
A writer who doesn't read is like an actor who doesn't like theatre or a child care worker who can't stand kids. They just don't go together. Reading is an essential life skill and as much as it behoves me to hear a person doesn't read, it doesn't irk me as much as hearing a writer say this.
I'll admit it is sometimes hard to read something great and not get the feeling that one day I will never be that good. Perhaps a writer who doesn't read is a defence against insecurity, or perhaps they are just lazy. In any event, I like hearing what books other writers are reading, what books influence them and who they would one day like to be compared too.
I personally love Deanna Raybourne, Anne Perry, Sarah Waters, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Bernice Morgan, Charles Dickens and many others. I read, read, read all the time and I think with each book I become a better writer.