Sunday, August 12, 2012

Reading Versus Writing

The other day I was discussing some fantasy trilogies I recently read (Lynn Flewelling's Tamir Triad, starting with The Bone Doll's Twin and Juliet Marillier's original Sevenwaters trilogy), and my friend asked me where I found time to read so much. I told her I've been outlining a fantasy, and before I write, I feel as if I need to read everything important in the genre first. And that's impossible, so then I never actually have to write!

The twist is that my friend is currently weighing agent offers for HER fantasy, which she wrote while I was reading all those other books. I think she spent her time more productively -- especially since now I get to read the product. Instead I use reading and research as a clever procrastination method so I feel like I'm accomplishing something even when I'm not (but it sure it fun).

This reminded me of a few recent discussion among English teachers who believe that the best way to teach is output instead of input -- writing instead of reading. And then I recalled a casual survey among writers about which they could more readily give up, writing or reading.

I was surprised that many answered reading -- something I could never relinquish willingly, although I have stopped writing for periods of months and years. But reading is my PASSION -- it's how I learn, soothe myself, escape troubles, and entertain my mind. It's my oldest and most dependable friend, and a life without books would seem bleak indeed.

Still, I currently have three or four partly researched, partly outlined novels that I never feel up to writing, but sometimes you must just WRITE.

Which would you give up if you HAD to choose -- reading or writing?


  1. That's so hard to decide but, if it came down to it, I'd give up reading over writing. My brain needs the release when I write or I get overwhelmed with scenes and characters talking over each other.

  2. It's almost a silly question. If I give up reading, I won't be able to write. I have to be able to at least read back what I've written in order to edit and revise. And once in a while I just need a break from my characters. Granted, I don't get as much reading done now as I used to, but I still try to read a few books a month.

    Before I started writing seriously, I used to read two or three books a week. If I tried to maintain that schedule, I'd never write a single word.

    Oh, and for the first time since the Harry Potter books came out, July came and went without me spending a whole week rereading the series. I have new books in the waiting-to-be-read pile that I want to get to in the limited time I have to read. :)

  3. I'd have to give up writing, but I can't. As long as I'm reading, I'm compelled to write. As long as I'm writing, I'm reading. They are so hand in hand. I've read my entire life though so could never stop that. I've thought about when I get old and can't books. :-)

  4. I would probably explode trying to decide LOL I don't think you can have one without the other. I mean, you couldn't be a brain surgeon without going to school. A chef without something to cook. How can you be a writer who never reads? Stephen King said "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write."

    I just think it's necessary to read, something, anything. And it's especially important to read the genre you write.

    However, I will say that when I am writing, like really into a project, I don't read. My big reading spurts tend to happen between projects or when I'm procrastinating working on something :) I also tend to not read the genre I am currently writing. For example, I haven't read many historical romances lately. Having just finished final edits on Treasured Lies not to long ago, I'm a little burned out on the genre for the moment. I also haven't read too many YA paranormals lately for the same reason.

    I've been spending my time reading funny mysteries like the Stephanie Plum books (a genre, btw, that I'd never read before) :D

    I don't know, I think reading is an important part of honing our craft. But if I HAD to choose, I'd probably give up writing. I'd probably become an oral storyteller lol but I don't think I could ever give up reading.

    Good thing I don't have to choose because giving up either would make me miserable :)

  5. I read to relax and I read to learn. I could not imagine life without that escape. But lately, I find that writing is as much an escape for me as reading. I think that's because I'm not so constantly thinking about craft, and I've grown enough ( through all that reading learning) as a writer to trust myself as I write. But I have to agree that the characters in my head have to come out, so I will say writing wins.

    Then I can always read what I wrote. :) if you write fast enough, it's like someone else wrote it.

  6. In the past few years, I've definitely seen a decline in my reading, feeling my time could better be spent writing and also, because I can't seem to relax enough to read a lot of the time. However, I have noticed the more I read, the more creative I feel, and I tend to write BETTER. So, in an ideal world, I wouldn't give up either and rather, use them to further each other.

  7. I would totally give up writing. Reading for pleasure, I've been doing forever. I just started writing 9 years ago, so that would be easier to give up. And for me, writing is HARD, while reading requires to effort.

  8. If I HAD to, I'd give up reading. Whenever I'm forced into not writing, my head ends up clogged with bits of story.

  9. I could never give up reading. I only really write one genre but I read them all. Reading is my escape from all the chaos. It totally relieves my stress. I would go nuts otherwise. I love writing and I'd hate to give it up, but reading keeps me sane. Although I guess I could say that about my writing too. :)

  10. I don't think it's a good idea to give up either. As far as I'm concerned, both are essential to my life. But while writing can be difficult, back-breaking work, reading is almost always pure joy. It's easy to get lost in the reading and put off the writing. That's where discipline comes in. Yep, Stephen King knows his stuff. Somehow, a writer has to make time to do both.

  11. I wouldn't want to give up either one. But I could probably shy away from writing a lot faster than reading.
    Oh, it's so tough to say that. I think it's just a procrastination tactic, but when we really want to write we just do it.

    I was once told you do something when you're ready to do it, similar to fate or destiny. Maybe the reason for the use of procrastination isn't the fact that you'll never write the story just that you aren't supposed to write the story yet?

  12. That is a tough one, but, I am compelled to write, whereas many times I begin a book, and never finish, because it doesn't draw me. I'm sure I would be so inspired by the good books I read that I couldn't help but write down my thoughts. Not being able to do so would frustrate me!

  13. I have to read. I go crazy when I don't. I haven't let myself pick up a book for five whole days while I do a final (like it's ever final-haha) before querying my novel and it's been killing me. If I had to give one up, I can go weeks and months without writing, so I'd have to say that one, although that would be really hard too. But no more reading? You might as well cut out my eyes.

  14. I'd find it difficult to do either as well. Although I don't get to read as much as I'd like, I would definitely grief for it if I had to let go. Like you, it helps me learn, grow, and encourages me to try new things.

  15. This is why I read books only during my lunch hour at work or on the bus to and from work. Or I listen to audio books while I'm at work. (Boring clerical job that doesn't require a whole lot of concentration.)

    I rarely read at home. That's time to write. I still manage to read quite a few books this way.


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