A Writer’s Gotta Read

Reading all day? Sign me up!

I’ve considered myself a reader my entire life.

I distinctly remember reading an entire chapter book during a 45-minute “silent reading” time in 2nd grade, to the complete bewilderment of my teacher.

I considered myself a reader throughout high school, even though reading the novels assigned to the class was more of a chore than a pastime.

I considered myself a reader throughout college and my first years of full-time work, even though I rarely got the time to read anything – for pleasure or for enlightenment.

Now, as a freelance writer, I’m incredibly excited with the idea that reading is an incredibly large part of developing as a professional. I feel like the guy in that episode of the Twilight Zone who finally has time to read everything he’s always wanted.

 

Keep reading, even if you don't have time.
There was finally time!

Perhaps the best part about reading being a necessity is the usability of everything I’ll ever read for the rest of my life. As a writer, every single thing I read has the potential to be a springboard for a blog post or thinkpiece. As long as what I’m reading generates a reaction or response within my mind, I’ve provided myself with more material to cover in my writing. Pretty sweet deal!

So it makes sense that, for day three of the Daily Post’s Blogging 101 course, we were tasked with discovering some new blogs to follow.  I decided to seek out blogs that would fulfill one (or more) of the following criteria:

  • It would expand my horizons, or was otherwise outside my normal range of interest
  • It would expand my skills as a blogger and writer
  • It would build camaraderie with other bloggers

Outside of My Wheelhouse

So many people operate with the idea that they know what they like, and so they never stray from their interests. Why waste time engaged in some activity that doesn’t interest you, right?

I’m sure you understand how silly this line of thinking is.

I recently listened to a friend poke fun at a guy he knows for going to a painting class with his wife. As if, because painting doesn’t interest him at all, it’s completely baffling to him that someone else would actually enjoy it.

Sure, if I were to bet on it, I’d imagine the man in question went to the class because his wife wanted to do it. I doubt it was his idea. But I’d also bet that, once he was there, he actually had a pretty good time, and he and his wife created a physical monument to a memory they’ll share for the rest of their life. And who knows? Maybe this guy hated every second of it, and will never paint again. But maybe, after trying it for the first time since grade school, he actually enjoyed himself, and will continue to pursue art as a hobby.

So what’s all this have to do with my writing?

I’ll be candid here: If it weren’t for this assignment given by the Daily Post, I would never have read the article I just read by Claire Vaye Watkins. On Pandering describes Watkins’ experience with a well-known author that…doesn’t quite turn out how she expected. Her meeting with the author, and his subsequent written account of the encounter, opens Watkins’ eyes to the reality that we all hold certain prejudices, and we too often don’t even realize it.

Could this article have reached me at any better time? The point of the exercise was to expand my horizons. In doing so, I found an article that specifically discusses the pitfalls of seeing from only one perspective and allowing your own experiences to blind you to the overall picture you could be seeing.

There is so much to experience in this world. Why shut out something because you don’t know if you’ll enjoy it?

Building Skills

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a lot of work to do to become a more successful blogger and writer. Luckily for me, there are hundreds of amazing resources out there to help me improve.

I’ve mentioned blogs like QuickSprout and Be A Freelance Blogger, along with the Freelance Writer’s Den, which are all awesome sites and blogs dedicated to helping you become a better blogger.

But for this exercise, I came across two articles from separate blogs which offered lessons that I will definitely keep in mind throughout my blogging journey. While the sites discussed above offer specific tactics and actions to take to improve your blogging skills, the following articles were more geared toward the overall outlook and lifestyle of an Internet-based writer.

In Defense of Academic Writing, posted on the Judgmental Observer, discusses in great detail the idea that, in a (virtual) land ruled by listicles and short-sighted (or grossly misinformed) op-ed pieces, longform academic writing is more important than ever.

If you’ve checked out the rest of my blog, you’ll likely recall my inaugural post, Making the Transition from Academia to Creating Valuable Content. In hindsight, that title is pretty misleading. In no way did I mean to say that academic writing isn’t valuable – it is. I guess, at the time of writing that first post, I had fallen into the trap of black-and-white thinking. What I learned from the Judgmental Observer is there is a time and place for quick-hitting content that gets right to the point, and there is also a time for the longer, more “unpacked” longform articles that truly get to the heart of a more nuanced matter. There’s no reason both can’t coexist.


I also checked out an interview with writer Alec Nevala-Lee by Cheri Lucas Rowlands. Nevala-Lee offers tidbits on how writing at least 500 words each day for a blog post (on top of his other writings) has kept him disciplined, focused, and proud of his work. He discusses how his blog evolved as it grew, how he used old posts to discover new ideas to write about, and how certain “behind-the-scenes” aspects of blogging (such as formatting) constantly come into play.

Not only was this article a great one to have read for this exercise because it gave insight into Nevala-Lee’s inner workings, but it also shed light on another aspect of writing which I’ve yet to delve into: creating interviews. Rowlands created questions for Nevala-Lee that anticipated answers and flowed into one another. They certainly weren’t robotic, but they weren’t overly conversational, either. Rowlands clearly knew just enough about her subject to be able to ask questions that would elicit meaningful responses.

When conducting interviews, keep in mind that everyone on this Earth has a lot to say. You just need to ask the right questions.

Getting in With the Blogging Community

One of the most rewarding parts of working through the Daily Post’s course is hearing from other bloggers who are either just getting started or aiming to take their blog to the next level. It hasn’t even been a full week and I’ve already met some awesome people to share ideas with!

But this isn’t a one-way street. I can’t just post up a blog and watch the comments roll in. I mean, I guess I can…but what’s the fun in that?

So I set out to read at least one article this morning with the sole purpose of posting a meaningful comment to the author. Appropriately enough, I found an article titled Writing is My “Real” Job, written by Jamie Lee Wallace for Live to Write – Write to Live.

Wallace discusses the notion of calling yourself a writer, even if it’s not your full-time gig. What you “are” or what you “do” shouldn’t just refer to your 9-to-5 job; it should refer to your pastime, your passion, your calling.

I’ll let Wallace explain the rest, since she does such an amazing job of doing so. For the purpose of this post, I’ll just say that her words conjured up a ton of ideas in my own mind, some of which I shared with her in the comment section.

And, awesomely enough, she replied to me within an hour! What could have been a one-off, faceless interaction consisting of me reading her article and moving on with my life will likely now lead to much more. I’ll be sure to check out her other posts, and will also likely become a “regular” commenter on Live to Write – Write to Live. By taking the initial step of commenting on one article, I may have opened a door to a potentially long-standing professional relationship with the variety of writers the blog has to offer.

All it took was one comment.


 

With millions of ideas being transmitted worldwide on a daily basis, the sheer volume of knowledge and information available to us all is unfathomable. As a writer, why would you not read as much as you possibly can?

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17 thoughts on “A Writer’s Gotta Read”

  1. This was a very interesting read. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.
    I sometimes find it hard to find the time for actual writing, even though my head is full of ideas for reviews and essays I want to publish.
    Last year, I met some wonderful people through podcasts and twitter. This year, I hope to get to know some interesting bloggers and share my experience with them. I have a feeling, this may be a good start.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that’s what I’ve found to be so great about blogging and writing on the Internet in general: Most writers are more than happy to enter into a conversation with you, as long as you’re willing to reach out to them! In most major industries, you don’t have a chance of being noticed by the “big guys.” But I’ve retweeted articles written by some hugely successful bloggers (like Sophie Lizard and Carol Tice), and have immediately gotten responses from them. Like I said, as long as you’re willing to put in the effort, you’ll likely get some awesome feedback =)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You’re right. Writers know how hard it is at the beginning, and most of them remember it even later on in their careers. Also, as you pointed out in your post, reading is important for writers. Reading broadly includes reading writing by people who aren’t “famous” (yet?).

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the feedback! I think a lot of people shut down possible avenues of pleasure because they’re too stuck in their ways or “too cool” for something (like the friend in my post). Sometimes we’re just scared to let our guard down and *gasp* actually enjoy ourselves. Crazy to think, huh?

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  2. Thanks for including a mention of my piece, Matt. It’s been very nice to make your acquaintance over at Live to Write – Write to Live & I really enjoyed reading this post – so many thoughts and links to explore. 🙂

    I especially love the idea about trying things outside your comfort zone. I was just talking with someone the other day about how important it is for writers to get out into the world. We need input as much as introspection – conversation as much as creation. Our writer’s minds are fueled by everything we experience, so why not spice it up a little? I gave my beau an 8-week ballroom dancing class for Christmas. It’s something we’ve talked about doing for three years (HIS idea, believe it or not), but hadn’t ever got around to coordinating. I’m nervous about the class (I’ve never taken any kind of dance class in my life), but also looking forward to the experience and to sharing it with him. I have no doubt that I’ll get plenty of writing fodder out of it, no matter what.

    Again – thanks for sharing. See you around the web!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The pleasure is mine, Jamie! You gave me a lot to think about – and write about =)

      I feel the same way about experience fueling the writer’s mind. A few months ago, my wife suggested we take a cooking class together. I had never really cooked much until we moved in together a few years ago, and I still don’t really know what I’m doing. But the class was an amazing experience I’ll always remember…and we’re even doing another one in a few weeks! Not only that, but she also purchased a coupon for a glass blowing class, too. I won’t lie, that’s a little more frightening than the cooking class =p but I’m ready for the experience nonetheless, and I know I’ll come out of it with something new to share on here!

      Thanks again for the insight and motivation!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Loved this piece. I completely relate to being a reader all my life who is now evolving to a writer. An interesting piece I recently read was Teju Coles notes to a young writer. Worth checking out if you haven’t come across it before… Aluta Continua!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey! Thanks so much for the suggestion. I will definitely check it out 🙂 I feel like writing goes hand in hand with reading. If you read something and don’t have a response to it, did you really experience it as much as possible?

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  4. An avid reader here, too! I read since I remember, mostly as a hobby no matter the subject. and I write since I remember as well, so for me they always went hand in hand. I can’t think about reading without writing and vice-versa.

    I’m a preacher to going out of your comfort zone. Learning and growing is like an obsession to me, so I have a constant need of going out of my circle, and breaking my barriers. That also allows me to get creative! And fail a lot, but I don’t mind: it’s part of the process.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That last sentence hits hard, Nicia. I’ve always been scared to take a step forward for fear of failing. But how can you really appreciate success if you never fail? I’ve blogged before and failed to get it off the ground, but in those failures I’ve gained an understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Having made the proper adjustments, I’ve already started to see success in this blog – the fact that you’re reading and commenting is case in point =) If I never experienced the feeling of having absolutely no one read my writing, I would never have gotten to this point…and who knows how far I’ll end up going now =)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly. If you don’t take a faithful leap into the unknown you’ll never know what you can become or accomplish. Staying in the same place is not an option to me.
        I know that everytime you tried something, and failed, you learned as well. And for sure that had helped you in future endeavours. 😉

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