Reading and Writing

I thought I would write a snarky post about the current trend of “vampire romance” given that I used to like vampires and was recently reading some of Neil Gaiman’s comments on the matter. But really, what could I say that Gaiman hasn’t already said? Except this — I blame Joss Whedon. Seriously, a vampire with a soul? Right. Thing is, you can make up any kind of mythology you want. Octavia Butler’s vampires (Ina) in her novel Fledgling are not Whedon’s vampires are not Rice’s vampires are not Meyer’s vampires are not Stoker’s vampires. Or mine for that matter when I wrote about them. Because the traditional mythology has grown out of human psychology (fear, sex, power, desire, darkness, death), it will, for me, remain truer than the commercialized image of the vampire that’s clogging up the stream these days. Monster as anti-hero? That’s Frankenstein’s monster, not Dracula. And enough said about that.

I’ve been reading a lot lately. I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like. It’s been mostly editing work and pulling teeth to write Rosetta Stone in small chunks. No idea why it’s still giving me such fits. Probably because it’s going to have to take more time than I intended. I wanted another 10k story, but it’s going to be twice that. It’s about 7k now and nowhere near even the middle. Lots of new wrinkles and creases and ways to fuck with the main character.

So I wanted to write about reading. Specifically, I wanted to write about how a writer can be a writer without reading. I read a brief blog post this morning in which a writer recounts an encounter with a man who says he writes but doesn’t read. The blog writer then goes on to be baffled by this and assert that writers have to be readers. Not interesting, sorry. Because I agree. My love of writing grew out of my love of reading. I don’t know how it could work any other way. So I want to grab that random stranger/writer and ask him how the hell that works.

I suppose there are a couple ways this could work. One is the idea of reading deprivation. If you’re a writer and an avid reader, what you read can and does influence what you write. When you take that input away, strange things happen. I know — I tried this ages ago as part of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way twelve-step program to recover creativity (which would be a separate post if I cared to get into that crap). For one, it’s difficult for me not to read. I will read the labels on shampoo bottles and boxes of sinus medicine. So when I purposely don’t read, my brain goes a little haywire. What I lack in input is made up for in output. Yes, there’s an overabundance of ideas. The problem there is that they’re usually not viable because there’s nothing to frame them. Go without reading long enough and it’s easy to forget what should go into a story. So when you sit down to write, what you end up with is mostly junk. I can’t point to a single thing I wrote during that period of deprivation that was any good. I don’t think anything other than journal entries exists from back then. If it does, it’s probably in my best interest to throw it away.

The other thought is that some professional writers don’t have much time to read between traveling, working on other projects, giving interviews and well, writing. Still, they squeeze reading in when they can. I don’t really have enough experience in this matter to comment on it, nor do I lead a busy life. There’s always time for reading and writing. I will always make time for reading and writing.

The writer in the post is quoted as saying, “I don’t read much.” Notice he doesn’t say “at all.” He is not asked if he thinks reading is important for writers. He isn’t asked to qualify the “much.” The horrific idea that this writer doesn’t read is only inferred by the blogger. And so her post becomes a useless echo of sentiments she’s read on someone else’s blog. She obviously reads. Good for her.

But there’s another thing writers must do. They must think. She didn’t really think. She reacted. I think her blog post would have been a hell of a lot more interesting if she’d really thought about that encounter before writing about it.