The Reading Prescription

Whenever I run into other creators and they ask me for advice about something they're working on, one of the first things I tend to do is say something like, "Have you read [name of work with some distant but useful connection to their own] yet?" Not as a way to accuse them of being out of touch or not well-read, but as a way to say, look at the way this work or this author (and this one, and this one) approached a problem parallel to what you're doing.

Depending on how adventurous they are, I may recommend something a lot further out from the circles they normally occupy. Example: If someone was doing a story about a galactic empire on the verge of collapse, I wouldn't have them read the existing SF in that vein, because chances are good they've already been there. Rather, I'd point them at something like Journey To The Abyss as a firsthand account of what it was like to live in a time of high culture about to be changed forever by the brutality of the First World War and the encroachment of modernity.

Here's the thing. Some people flinch when they hear someone ask "Have you read this yet?" because they don't want anything even remotely like their work "contaminating" it; they don't want to be accused of having copied something, consciously or un-. I get it; I used to be the same way.

But you could give ten people the exact same idea and none of them would develop it in remotely the same fashion, so as you grow into and become aware of how you nurture your ideas to fruition, you become less averse to seeing how other people do things and why, especially when they seem vaguely like what you're doing. You learn to put more of what you are into it, and by that token less of what they are.

Writer's egos are curious things. Some of them can't tolerate the idea of anything even remotely like themselves; they have to be Original at all costs. Others have no problem gobbling up everything in their path, but don't always assimilate what they gobble up and make it theirs — they just return it in a only slightly digested form. Seek a balance.

Tags: reading  writers  writing 

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2019/02/01 17:00.

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