I think it’s basically common knowledge at this point that the number one piece of advice for wannabe writers is to read, read, read and write, write write. Nearly every author I’ve seen live, watched videos of on YouTube, or read interviews of has said some version of that answer. So you want to be a writer? WELL, READ! WRITE!
What’s so hard about that?
Really, the advice makes sense. I should probably have at least some concept of what a book is before trying to write one of my own. I should understand how the beginning, middle, and end all fit into place. I should research and read books by the authors I love, by the authors I want to emulate. It isn’t just reading–it’s learning.
But there reaches a point when reading maybe isn’t the solution to that awful writer’s block, to that complete inability to transfer a story from the mind to the paper–maybe it’s the problem.
You see, there’s a factor in writing that I think people fail to mention: confidence. If you don’t believe your own story, how will anyone else? I’m generally the type of writer who complains 99% of the time and writes the other 1%, but if I absolutely know that what I’m about to write has the potential to be actually, you know, good, then I can crank it out.
Of course, this feeling usually lasts for about ten minutes, and then I’m back to hating everything I’ve ever written again. So, since that whole “write” aspect of advice tends to fail for me, I often have to rely on “read.”
That sort of fails for me, too.
Because most of the time when I read, I only end up curled in a very tight ball, thinking about how I will never ever ever be a writer. Ever. I think about how my metaphors are contrived and clunky, how my prose never flows in the right way, how I will never write a book, let alone a good book, let alone a book people will want to read.
This doesn’t always have to be the case. In fact, sometimes reading really does inspire me. Maybe it’s the way a sentence is structured or the chapters or even a word. Reading is awesome. I don’t think we’d want to write if it wasn’t.
But what I’m saying is that when you’re reading because you can’t write, and the reading isn’t helping you to write, put the book down. Seriously. Don’t torment yourself. Simply shut the book, set it on the table, take a deep breath, and watch a really horrible movie. Do something mindless. Then, when your brain has started to function again and you can reason with yourself because, you know, why can’t I? What universal clause is there that says I’m not allowed to write a book, or that I will never be able to break through the seemingly impossible standards set by writers before me?
I will never write like John Green or Courtney Summers or Nova Ren Suma. It’s useless for me to knock myself simply because I’m reading (and adoring) their writing. It only kills my confidence, which kills my desire to write, which isn’t good. So, that advice we hear again and again? We can ignore it. And we should.
Besides, even though I’ll never write like anyone else, they’ll never write like me, either.