Why Do You Read?

Why do you read? For pleasure or for instruction?

I read for pleasure and instruction. Because I’m still writing, I read for instruction, books like John MacDonald’s The Deep Blue Good-By. I’m reading this because I’m writing another mystery and I haven’t read that many mysteries. I’m also reading for pleasure and it takes me to a place I’ve never been before.

Reading is important to me. It’s instructional to me as a writer. Without reading, how do I know how to write? Perhaps through watching TV? Never. Or reading books other than those I want to write? That is counter productive, at least for me.

Say a writer reads children’s stories, but the writer writes mysteries. A writer should read the type of story he/she wants to write. Although some writers don’t do this and yet they are successful writers. The reason they are successful writers is that whatever they read, the pattern of writing gets inside of them. And because reading is instructional, whether they know it or not. It may be instructional in an unconscious way, but it’s there, waiting for reader to write. Or not. Obviously, not all readers become writers or we would be inundated with writers and their books.

If I read a mystery, I learn how to write drama, suspense and sometimes humor. Or say the writer reads autobiographies and yet writes humor. Still the writer learns through reading autobiographies how to write successfully.

It’s like learning to read. Did you read cereal boxes? I bet you did. You want to learn things, you want to learn how to read and write. Eventually, reading becomes unconscious. You just sit down and read, forgetting that once you didn’t know how to.

When I teach creative writing I always bring a story to dissect. How does the writer achieve the effect he/she wants? By dissecting the story my students learn how the writer does this. Not that my students go home and write a good story. It takes practice to learn to how to write well.

For the reader, the story may keep the reader in suspense or the reader may laugh (or smile) at the humor in the story or the reader may sit back and think about the story. If the reader finishes the story and wants another: this is evidence of good writing.

Now that we’ve discussed reading, I’d like to know why YOU read? For pleasure? To be carried to a world you never thought about? To see the future? To entertain your child? Or for instruction for yourself?

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Sue Powers’ fictions have appeared in numerous publications. Some were published by Saturday Evening Post, New Millenniums Writings and Blue Earth Review and many others. She was a recipient of a fellowship and grant from the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose, and two of her stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her mystery, She’s Not There, will be published soon. She’s now writing another mystery.

3 thoughts on “Why Do You Read?

  1. I read for pleasure, to learn, to experience, to be carried away. And in the process, it helps me with my own writing. I read because I live to read and have since I was a small child.

  2. I read very good writers like Pulitzer Prize winners. I think I learn the most about writing from them. Books like All the Light We Cannot See and The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx.

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