The Unread Writers

If you’re a writer, why bother to read? Right?

I know, it sounds ridiculous, and yet more and more authors don’t read. They don’t read or buy books, and yet they expect others to buy theirs. If they don’t take the time to read, how could they be disappointed when their own books don’t sell? After all, these authors are in the same demographic as the unread. And honestly, how can someone write without reading?

Why don’t they read? Are they too lazy?

An article by Buzz Poole of Imprint tackles this very topic: “At the New Yorker Book Bench Macy Halford recently posed an important question: ‘What is wanting to write without wanting to read like? It’s imperative that we figure it out, because Giraldi’s right: It’s both crazy and prevalent among budding writers.’ She was echoing a question asked by debut novelist William Giraldi who in the course of teaching writing at Boston University has noticed a growing number of aspiring writers disinclined to read. This unfortunate trend inspired an open-ended analogy: “Wanting to write without wanting to read is like wanting to ____ without wanting to ____.”

Like wanting to… play music without listening to music? Like wanting to… cook without eating? How about this? Like wanting to fly a plane without learning how first? Isn’t it the same thing?

A writer should learn the craft, and while not every skilled author has taken a creative writing course, one can improve by reading.

Now I’ve heard the argument that authors do not want to unintentionally steal another author’s style, however, the more one reads, the more styles get mixed together, resulting in the formation of one’s own unique writing. Artists will often copy other artists when they’re first getting started, but after years of practicing, their personal touch emerges. Writers evolve in much the same way. The more we read and the more we practice, the better our writing as we hone our craft.

By reading, we can see what works and what doesn’t work, but it’s more than that: we are inspired. The article by Buzz Poole goes on to suggest that the culprit is the age of instant gratification and social media, when people are never alone without distractions, and not inclined to sit down and relax with a good book when there is texting, gaming and apps to fill our time. I think it goes beyond that.

[Tweet “Pick up a book and do the unthinkable—read.”]

While the old-fashioned publishing world still exists, today we have print on demand, the self-publishing industry that has gone from a vanity press charging thousands of dollars to publish boxes of books sent home to the author, to an economical print-as-you-sell with a marketplace like Amazon, which makes the books available worldwide. The only obstacle in the way is the difficulty of self-marketing, but that doesn’t stop anyone and everyone from publishing.

Obviously, as a self-published author, I’m an advocate for this industry, and I see it as a way to get my work out there without the hassle of searching for an agent who doesn’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, (in other words, you have to know someone), then onto a publisher who often turns down anything that is not the boring, proven formula, especially written by an unknown author. What’s more, the entire process takes two or more years before the book is finally in print, and unless you’re famous, the money is as minimal as the marketing they offer. However, if you self-publish, your books are available immediately, and you don’t have to deal with the stuffy publishing world or its grueling process which moves at a snail’s pace.

The downside to that is the untrained author, unwilling to read or learn the craft but wanting to write, thinking that writing is easy and anyone can do it. This has created a saturation in the market, making it nearly impossible to be noticed. But it’s worse than that. If this trend continues, there will be too many writers and no one to read their books.

Is there a solution?

Yes, and it’s quite simple. Set the phone aside, or the tablet or laptop, shut off the television and Xbox, pick up a book and do the unthinkable—read.

D.M. Miller is the author of the memoir, Half-Jew: Searching for Identity, as well as the interfaith “Heart” series. The product of an interfaith marriage herself, Miller’s work explores the difficult themes of religion, politics, ethnicity, culture, family, ancestry and love. See her books on Amazon.

A writer from the age of 12, after earning a Bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University, D.M. Miller trekked a path from North to South to West, finally settling with her family among prickly cactus thorns and big sky valleys. Coming from a distinctively clashing gene pool, the author of the romantic interfaith “Heart” series has an appetite for going against the grain in both fiction and nonfiction alike, exploring the difficult themes of religion, politics, ethnicity, culture, family, ancestry, identity and most of all, love.


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