I often run across articles and interviews in which published writers are asked the one piece of advice they would give to young and aspiring writers. The most common advice seems to be to read voraciously. By reading the work of other writers, you absorb techniques, strategies, rhythms, vocabulary…You think you’re just enjoying yourself when in fact you’re getting an education. I suppose “read voraciously” is as good a tidbit of advice as any. It might be wasted advice, though, for the simple fact that writers tend to be voracious readers already.
But while bookishness is a necessary condition for writerliness, it’s not a sufficient condition. That is to say, while you can’t be much of a writer without being a reader, you also won’t have much to write about if you don’t get up from your desk and pursue a life outside of books.
It is your job as a writer to give the reader something she couldn’t (or wouldn’t) get for herself. If you are just recycling the things you’ve read in other books, no matter how skillfully, you probably aren’t giving your reader something she couldn’t get for herself.Read More