Writers Who Don’t Read? Blasphemy!

Writers Who Don’t Read? Blasphemy!

There are writers out there who don’t read.

I repeat, there are writers out there who don’t read.  **cue pandemonium**

Scary, right?

Truly hard to grasp. Especially since I am a self-professed bibliophile who craves not just the words but also the feel of my index finger and nail sliding across the page. Books call me. All kinds. At any time. They whisper my name, flutter around my mind, urge me to go to libraries or bookstores or Amazon and find them, buy them, take them home, read them. So, I do.

I am a writer who reads. No. Actually, I am a reader who writes.

And I’ve always assumed that all writers share an infatuation with the bound written word. But recently, I discovered there are writers who don’t read. And I’m talking writers in school trying to learn, possibly sitting beside you in one of your workshops. Writers flipping listlessly through writing craftsmanship how-to books. Writers diligently churning out what they hope to be masterpieces. Writers who want to be taken seriously, who are published and seeking to be read. Who. Don’t. Read.

In 2011, The New Yorker’s Macy Halford posed an analogy question originally from novelist and Boston University professor William Giraldi. He was frustrated by the number of students he encountered with no real desire to read and wanted to know:

Wanting to write without wanting to read is like wanting to _____ without wanting to _____.”

Giraldi couldn’t come up with a satisfying answer. Because the desire to do most things should come with an interest in observing craft, right? How can you be a musician without listening to music? Or paint without looking at art? How can you act without watching movies or theatre? Or be a surgeon without watching procedures?


And yet, it’s a thing.  This aspiring writer who doesn’t like to read is apparently becoming a real thing, per The Salon. And real writers have commented about it. Edward P. Jones mentioned it in his Q&A session at Printer’s Row LitFest, saying, in essence, that younger writers aren’t reading great works and thus aren’t creating great works. I don’t quite agree with that but he’s not alone. Stephen King spoke on it briefly during a Q&A at Yale, expressing frustration at aspiring authors who can’t find time to read.

But, since you’ve gotten this far into my post, I’m assuming that you are not one of those writers. I’m assuming you enjoy reading. And I won’t bog you down with a rant on all of reading’s merits, such as sharpening techniques, developing a comfortableness in solitude, expanding the realms of your imagination (all of which are necessary for quality writing). Because I’m assuming you, faithful reader, already know these things.  But, if you know someone who wants to write but doesn’t read, here’s more reading propaganda and also a little bit of writing process for you to pass along:

And since it’s summer, there’s more than enough reading lists out there in the cyperspace to get anyone going. Like this. And this one. And this one.