Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What to Read, What to Read

So yesterday both Mark Terry and Terry Whalin posted about reading the kinds of books you gravitate to, and then writing those kinds of books. I find this a fascinating concept that's probably true, to a certain degree. But I'd like to point out that reading entirely different kinds of books than the ones you gravitate to, and trying to write different kinds of genres than what you're reading, can be pretty amazing.

That, of course, is said from a girl who's been reading a lot of theoretical tomes lately. I have to admit that theoretical tomes haven't necessarily always been the first book I'd pick up when strolling through Borders, and yet, I'm finding that material incredibly enriching. Yes, I've been writing papers that respond to that theory, but I've also been finding it's been raising desires in me to write creative non-fiction, to try new fiction genres, to add deeper layers to my thought and to my characters in my fiction.

See, the theory I've been reading has touched on some pretty basic questions about who we are as humans. About meaning and communication. On the nature of story. On how we conceive history and why we like to keep and throw things away. About how we influence one another, and questions of agency and free will. This semester, I've been busy theorizing and writing academic papers in response, but I can feel my confidence toward other writings improving as I feel my ponderings on these topics gathering me lots and lots of writing material.

So yeah, I'd like to encourage you writers out there to, sure, read what you want to write and write what you want to read, but here's my two cents: don't limit your reading to that. Don't shun the hard stuff. Stretching your comfort zone is good, and can stretch your imagination along with your understanding.

Oh, and one more thing--don't forget to "read" the "texts" around you in your quest for figuring out what to write. Pay attention to what stories you like to listen to from other people and watch on TV, what locations you like to visit, what your interests are. Observe how people communicate with each other and how the cultures around you work and how they interact with each other. These things, beyond what you like to read, could open up whole new universes of kinds of things to read and to write, and add new depth to what you do write.

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