Monday, March 3, 2014

Which Came First, the Reader or the Writer?

What does this mean to you? To be a writer you must first be a reader?

What were you thinking, Michael Chabon, when you spoke or wrote this little missive?

I think as a writer we must keep ourselves strong. We must work out all the muscles necessary to become a good writer. One way to help with working out those muscles its by reading.

When reading, we put on our editor's cap or proofreader's chapeau and work those muscles.

I know, sometimes as a writer, we'd like to read for pleasure.

Is that possible?

Let's think about that? Can you really turn off all your editing techniques and tricks and trades of proofreading and just become a R-E-A-D-E-R?

Belle Beth Cooper has a very unique approach to our dilemma. Five Unconventional Ways to Becoming a Better Writer. 

Belle Beth Cooper states that:  "Even if you’re not a ‘writer’ per se, writing can be highly beneficial. It can be helpful for a number of things:

Writing can Help you to Work Through your Feelings

Do writers have problems with their feelings? I'd say so, if you consider all the maladies that writers seems to have come up with and the drinking and the drugs and the mental health issues. Yes, I do believe that writing can definitely help with these feelings.

Writing can help a Writer Stay Positive

That's totally awesome and I truly believe it. There's nothing like writing to keep yourself positive. Writing brings out the good in people. Writing and positivity go hand in hand in my book. 

Writing can Help you Express your Thoughts More Clearly

Another benefit from Belle Beth Cooper. She nailed it. Who more than anyone else in the world can express their thoughts more clearly than a writer? 

Writing can Help you Market your Product

Yes, and I say this with much chagrin, because most writers do not like to market their own product. But, who knows their material better than anyone else? Who has the ability to create the marketing material better than anyone else? The writer.

But, where does this all lead back to my first question: Which came first, the reader or the writer?

To put it logically, there wasn't something to read until something was written. So, of course, the writer came before the reader.

So, then as Michael Chabon did say, "Being a Writer is about Being a Reader First."

So then, what are the benefits of being a Reader first?

In it she quotes the following:

Reading—the good and the bad—inspires you. It develops your palate for all the tricks that writers have invented over the years. You can learn from textbooks about the writing craft, but there’s no substitute for discovering for yourself how a writer pulls off a trick. Then that becomes part of your experience. – Roz Morris

Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window. – William Faulkner

Belle Beth Cooper came up with five unconventional ways to become better writers by the way we read.

1. Skip Sections
"According to Ms Cooper, I’ve actually realized recently that there is a kind of freedom in giving up that feeling of needing to see everything. Sometimes, it’s okay to skip parts. Especially if they’re not relevant to you. Readers on the web skim for a reason. In fact, it has almost become our default way of reading"

2. Quit Altogether

Ms. Cooper says, "Reading is meant to be a fun activity. Your brain doesn’t want to slog through something it finds boring. In How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, Pierre Bayard defends the habit of not reading as something we should all do more of:P
To speak without shame about books we haven’t read, we would thus do well to free ourselves of the oppressive image of cultural literacy without gaps, as transmitted and imposed by family and school, for we can strive toward this image for a lifetime without ever managing to coincide with it.

If we really respect our time, let’s spend it on things we enjoy and reading that has long-term benefits for us."
3. Read Things You Hadn't Thought About Reading

Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window. – William Faulkner

"If you’re stuck in a reading rut like me, try pushing yourself to try a new genre or writing style now and then." per Ms Cooper.

4. Walk Away and Take Notes
 To get more out of the books you are reading you should be taking breaks from them and taking notes about what you have read.

Believe it or not, it helps test your comprehension and your brain's ability to assimilate what it's read.  

"Mary Gordon wrote about how copying sections from books and taking notes on what she’s read helps inspire her own words
Before I take pen to paper, I read. I can’t begin my day reading fiction; I need the more intimate tone of letters and journals. From these journals and letters—the horse’s mouth—I copy something that has taken my fancy, some exemplum or casual observation I take as advice. These usually go into the Swedish journal, except for the occasional sentence that shimmers on its own, and then it goes into the handmade Vermonter.
I move to Proust; three pages read in English, the same three in French. In my Proust notebook I write down whatever it is I’ve made of those dense and demanding sentences. Then I turn to my journal, where I feel free to write whatever narcissistic nonsense comes into my head."

5. Fight Back

This is what Ms. Cooper says, "Finding something you care about is worth cherishing. If you want to rant against the author’s premise or post a rebuttal to their argument, go for it. This will make your brain work really hard, as you analyze their ideas and form your own in response."

What do you think? Did Ms. Cooper hit the nail on the head? I think so.

And as Paul Graham said, “writing doesn’t just communicate ideas; it generates them. So get reading, get writing, and watch the ideas start flowing!

So, what do you think of all this?

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