I think most people are going to come down on the side of reading. Call me weird, but there’s something strange about participating in a sport you wouldn’t watch on TV.
So, part of this is from the sports that I participate in (yes, ballroom is a sport), and the idea of trying to be a dancer while uhm… not watching other dancers. How do you learn it? How do you know what good is?
I’ve watched other dancers. I’ve watched dancers watch other dancers. Have you ever seen how a dancer’s eyes zoom in on someone else’s work in pieces? The feet. The arms. What the hell is she doing with her elbows? We don’t watch each other in the same way as non-dancers watch dancers. I don’t think writers watch each other in the same way that non-writers watch writers.
There’s a difference between being influenced by someone, and copying them. Did you think Ford built the Mustang without ever taking apart a Model A?
And then, there’s my response to the idea that not reading will somehow make your work more “an extension of you.” Ugh. We don’t live in a vacuum. Even if you cut out every jot of written text from your life, you are still going to be influenced by the communities in which you live, and the people you share those communities with. There’s still the annoying guy at work, the wife, the kids, the garbage man who never seems to get to your house until noon.
Cutting out one segment–and one of the more intelligent segments, at that– of your community to make your work “original” is lip service. If you really want to cut out all of the influences, move into a bomb shelter and never order out for pizza.
And this month in Insecurities:
I am plunging headlong into a new project. I’m about 10,000 typed words and a whole lot of handwritten pages in. As you might have guessed, typing those pages is still a chore, and I’m still behind. On the other hand, I’m still getting more fluid scenes, and I’m actually more connected with these characters and their stories than with some of the ones I’m typing.
Obviously, I bought another fountain pen. That makes two pens filled with different colored inks so that I can alternate between them, and one pen filled with plain, black, mostly waterproof ink for long-term things, like scene cards and outlines. (See? I have a reason.)
And I want to get back into querying the novel I’ve been revising. Seems like it has rested long enough. I’m a little antsy about that.