You can‘t be a writer unless you were first a reader. You must read widely to write well.
But what to read…? Where to start…? The choice is overwhelming.
I’ve lost count of the number of novels I’ve read at a single sitting over the years, nourished by the words on the page but forgetting to eat, or to sleep, neglecting all my other responsibilities till the last page had been turned. But becoming a writer broke something inside my head. The ability to get lost in a book now eluded me. My concentration span contracted. It became rare to discover a book which would hold my attention hostage. Now I read a novel with one eye, while the other carefully considered the subtleties of mood, style, tone, plot and dialogue. Good writing inspired me, a page or two enough to drive me to my keyboard with the renewed determination to produce something of equal quality. And lot of what I read left me thinking I can do better than this, and had me at my desk even quicker. It began to take something special to capture me for more than ten minutes at a time.
Disciplined reading means this injury is healing, although the scar will always be there. The reader and the writer live side by side in my head now, sharing the same space, but content to take their turns. I can read for pleasure again, and lose myself in a fictional world, knowing that when the book is closed at the end, the writer in me will interrogate the reader – ‘Did you enjoy that? Why? What were the strengths? Where were the weaknesses? Why were the characters memorable, likeable, irritating, elusive? What about the dialogue? Was the ending surprising, saddening, or contrived? Why…?
I read carefully now, avoiding the impulse purchase, letting other people sort the wheat from the chaff before I take the rich pickings. I read those books my friends recommend, those which find critical acclaim, which win prizes, awards and accolades, those which are adapted for TV or movie for screen, or those which remain in print as the years pass.