The Writer Who Wouldn’t Read

Hypocrisy!

I love writing stories, but for most of my admittedly short life, I didn’t enjoy reading. Until recently. The Tasha-is-almost-too-embarrassed-to-admit-it, kind of recently.

I detested reading sometimes, though not for the reasons one might assume. I’d pick up a book, read a few chapters, and then feel compelled to work on, or merely daydream about, my own stories. Thus began the Tasha-never-finishes-anything-she-reads syndrome, established circa middle school.

How could I have worked in a bookstore during high school, and be unfamiliar with authors and their works? How could I have written my own book when I didn’t like reading? Why am I pursuing a career in writing if I don’t thrive on experiencing stories by reading them?

I’m not sure I have an answer. I suspect, however, I was lost in my own imagination, and reading inspired me to return to my own imaginings rather than someone else’s. Or perhaps it’s not that I disliked what I read, but writing was more exciting to me. A satisfying, rich escape that differed from reading in its own way.

When I turned twenty-one, my mom introduced me to my favorite book: Shogun by James Clavell, and I’ll admit that I did a one-eighty. I don’t know if I was a late bloomer to the world of reading, or if my imagination was finally willing to embrace the work of others, but I’ve been reading—albeit, selectively—for the past two years.

Do I still cringe when I hear: You must read to write? Yes, of course.

Although I enjoy reading a handful of series now, I wonder how my lack of pleasure reading for twenty-one years will influence my career going forward. The twittersphere, bloggers, and you-must-read-to write’ers of the world might say, negatively. But I’d like to think that I have an unconventional perspective on the writer/reader dynamic, and only time will tell if it hinders or helps my pursuit of the written word as well as my ability to share it with others.

Comments

Hey,
I'm in the same boat on the reading front. I have to ask though, how do you learn you're craft if you don't study other authors? What is an example of a book that gives a strong definement to your style? Is Shogun that book?

Hi Jay,
Somehow I missed your comment last year, so this reply is long overdue. Most of my writing has been transformed through trial and error, as well as working as a writing tutor for five years. I wrote my first draft nearly eight years ago, and, since then, I've worked with a variety of editors and beta readers, honing my style. For that reason, I'm not sure that I can compare my style to other authors. The editor I'm working with now encouraged me to read Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere as a comparable title; it has a similar vibe in terms of plot progression and character arcs, but Gaiman's writing style is different.