Here’s a Little Trainwreck
Pick up any book about writers, fiction or non-fiction, and what will you find? Somewhere in there will be detail about the writer’s habits. Foremost among them… No, not writing. Reading.
Reading comes first, always.
And what are they reading? The “classics”? Heavens, no!
The classics were finished with, toast, when they were in high school, as they should be done for you in case you are one of “those” who think you don’t need any further edgumakashum.
Writers read and if you aren’t reading you can count yourself out of that group forthwith. So, what do you read? Well, you read what you are supposed to read and that, as usual, depends upon context.
Doesn’t everything depend upon context?
One thing that does not depend upon context is this fundamental rule: All writers learn from all other writers, so never dismiss the work of others, no matter how bad you may judge it to be.
And it certainly can be GODAWFUL. That’s okay. It may still teach you something. Go ahead and read it.
“Why bother?” you ask, with that gobsmacked look on your face while you, thankfully, continue reading this.
First, bad writing will always remind you what not to do. Like staring at a car wreck. “Geez, I’m so glad I don’t do THAT any longer!”
Second, and perhaps more important, bad writing provides you with an opportunity to respond, and learn to do so in a calm, appropriate manner should you find yourself — as we all do here — within a community of (oh, gosh, I would hope) like-minded individuals…even if the levels of “talent” are not quite so “equal.”
And when I say “respond” I absolutely do not mean heaping praise upon bad writing as a form of encouragement. Do not EVER do this no matter how often you see others do it.
One can be encouraging without praising bad habits.
Do you jump off bridges when you see others do it? Do you, really?
Many are here to grow and learn. A quick P.S.: So are you, genius. And that is very much the point.
Those who are not here to grow and learn are actually here to be dismissed (often laughed at and not laughed with; understand the difference, please) although they may not know this. Even you may not know this. Even you may be laughed at behind your iPad. Do your best to be kind. Even kind to yourself. But, when you have to let it rip, you know what they say. Holding back may be bad for your health.
And do look behind your iPad once in a while.
Seriously, though, we are here to do more than stare at our navels for a few moments, spew out a few hundred words, then go back to our navels and spew out some more words, and repeat over and over. Writing becomes rather insular when we do this over and over.
Over and over.
This process also tends to make our writing repetitive. Saying the same thing over and over, boring our readers. The one who might even like us. Until they don’t any longer.
Reading “around,” reading and being responsive to the work of other writers, carrying on a resourceful dialogue with other writers in your community — and that’s what this is supposed to be, a community — whether their work is “better” than yours or not, in your estimation or theirs, enlivens both your work and theirs; gives them more to think and write about.