“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”
The first advice given to would-be writers is to ‘read-read-read.’ Unless we’re James Joyce, we are not reinventing the wheel. There is more to learn from those who came before than any instruction book could offer.
But I discovered a curious thing about the relationship between reading fiction and writing it. At least for me, I must stop reading when I’m about to write a first draft. I need a few days to ‘clear the air’ and calm the other writers’ voices, so mine can emerge.
The practical ramification is that I must alternate between reading and writing. This is easy to do when writing picture story books. It takes a stronger discipline when it comes to tackling longer stories.
My to-be-read pile grows ominously tall in those times. You wouldn’t want to brush against it accidentally, or you may get buried as the precarious stack collapses. My guilt at ‘not reading’ would grow also, but I know what I have to do, in order to do what I do.
Yes, it’s one of these times. I just cleared my pile, or almost. For the next few weeks it’ll have to start growing again.