I have been writing now for more years than I care to say. I am fortunate to be able to write most of the time and make a living from it, I have over the year been a journalist, poet, short story writer, columnist, fiction writer, script writer, film writer, script editor, script supervisor, magazine editor, publisher. Working for myself and for a number of publishers and production companies.
I hope by now that I am respected and that organisations like Incwriters, have shown my continued support of independent publishers in the UK and abroad and my desire to drum home the importance of reading.
I am still amazed that even today our own Government do so little to support libraries and reading within education. They don’t seem to see the importance of reading as a way to bolster communities, instil pride and give a vital skill to those seeking to learn. I come from a working class background, my parents where not rich, I never grew up with everything (and even now I care little for the latest want it now product). For me, the library, the library that my Mum took me to, helped me join, encouraged me to use opened up a world beyond the industrial landscape and suburban landscape I grew up in. To me the library was Enid Blyton, Tove Jansson, Roald Dahl, Alan Ahlberg and Harry Harrison. It was the Famous Five on a mad journey with Moomin Papa in a Chocolate Factory with the fantastical Jeremiah Obediah Jacknory Jones fighting the might and cunning of the Stainless Steel Rat. God, that was brilliant!
My love of books remains, I have shelves of them. They warm me, they remind me of worlds beyond my own.
So, I am confused when I meet poets who do not read poety, script writers who do not watch theatre, listen to radio, go to the cinema or fiction writers who simply do not read – ever. Many of you know that for me this is a major bug bear, how the hell can you write when you simply do not read? It is like asking a surgeon who has never studied medicine to remove your ruptured spleen. Mine is about to rupture with anger.
Now, I know there are many novelists who do not read when they are writing – this is different – but I do not know any succesful novelist that doesn’t read. I know a vast amount that only read non-fiction (which is still reading).
Every successful poet, writer and journalist I know, read. Why? Because it inspires them, because it interests them, because it is an important part of actually being a writer. Writers write but they read a hell of alot more.
3 Comments Add yours
I admit to being a writer who doesn’t read as much as I ought to, but then I don’t like much of what’s out there and end up reading non-fiction. It also inspires envy. Anyway, I do like Drew Gummerson’s Me and Mickie James.
I totally agree, the more you read, the better a writer you become. And don’t stick to the same genre – any book you read will help your writing. In fact, I was once a very picky reader and didn’t venture far from crime novels. Now I read all sorts of things in my quest to move from journalist to novelist and I’m loving it. Wish I’d started sooner! I just love books and I think all good writers should too, it’s the only way to learn.
Hi Ian, all I can say is that you are reading. I am happy that anyone reads! I know plenty of fiction writers and poets who just read non-fiction. They argument that non-fiction is proliferated by bad celeb authors and over hyped books that are destined for bargain bucket. I agree. I think non-fiction is great, and I do look towards diaries more, I find them fascinating but I do have a weakness for SF. I am at present really enjoying the latest issue of ‘Interzone’ and digging into E.E. Doc Smith and Farmer. I do get sick of walking into any Waterstones and being bombarded with the same terrible books, same names, same 3 for 2 offers, same books that you don’t want to put on your bookshelf or revisit. I want to see the independent publisher and bookshop come back to the fore – I know it is a dream but I think Waterstones being split up or returning to the ethos of being a local bookshop would work. I mean, walk into your Waterstones and how many local writers/publishers or local books are on the shelf? I loved the days I could walk into my dusty old bookshop (I live too far away now, another city and I doubt it is still there). I could always walk into that bookshop and say, ‘I want to read some SF, something in Ray Bradbury vein on suburban strangeness and masks, have you any suggestions?’ and the guy behind the counter would actually write me up a list, then find the books for me or even order them – remember that day when the bookshop phoned up and told you your order was in? God, I miss that feeling, I miss the excitement – sad it may be but it meant I had a pleasant relationship with my bookseller. If I walk into Waterstones, the only relationship I have with them is a plastic name tag, and it is doubtful I will ever see the same face again. If I ask the bland faces, behind the bland counters the same question that I asked my old independent bookseller then the response I would normally get is, ‘Who is Ray Bradbury?’. That happened to me at Manchester Waterstones. No wonder we no longer read as a society, we don’t read anything that challenges us – non-fiction does challenge – then those who aren’t challenged, don’t read and then work for big chain bookshops and reinforce the cycle by not knowing anything about books other than those that are offer. 3 for 2, fuck off and give me something that I can get excited about and bother my friends until I read it. I’ll be happy to pay the full price for a full read.