Monday, January 31, 2011

Writers Are Readers First

When Mr Wordsmaid told me about this blog, I was both excited and uncertain. Uncertain because I didn’t know what would fit in, in a writers’ blog.

Today, when I opened the blog, I was surprised to see 33 posts already. Some of the entries are brilliant – the kind you would read and think ‘Wish I could write like that’ or else ‘Why didn’t I think of this before?’

I will not call myself a writer. You don’t become a writer because you know to spell a few words. It’s like saying everybody is a singer. Everyone who speaks can sing – but only some are good at it. Unlike singing, however, writing can be acquired.

I’m sure all of us know the secret to good writing. Reading. Here’s a small story. I turned into a PG Wodehouse reader somewhere in my high school. I say PG Wodehouse reader, because for a long while, I would not read anything else. And before that, I regret, I did very little reading. I’d feel more confident if I wrote soon after reading a PG – and this is when I read it in one stretch. For some reason, it seemed easier to find words and get that ‘flow’ we all seek.

It still works that way. And it needn’t be a PG. It can be any good writer, as long as you don’t take long breaks in your reading. I keep asking people like Sabz and Manu how they write so well – what do they read? They have both taken a lot of effort in developing the command over language they have. I know they do not have to rush to get a book and read it every time they sit to write. What they have read over the years have equipped them with the tools they use so brilliantly now. It is not just them. Any good writer – dear Miss Mercedes for one, am sure has done her bit of reading.

However, just like you can never finish learning music (Yesudas would tell you that story of looking ahead at the big vast sea called music and after 70 years of swimming, he still has a long long way to go), you can never complete a course on language (I don’t mean the one at college). Manu reads, Sabin reads, Mercedes reads, and anyone who hopes to be a writer MUST read.

All that on reading has made me very guilty. I will make my next post after I have read at least one book.

Before I stop, can we all take up an assignment? On posting about what we are reading now. Or making a promise on how much you would read the following year? No one is going to break your leg if you break the promise. Well, may be, except your English teacher :-).


wordsmaid said...

Thank God, you are in at last. Well that is the point Cris. You can't be a good writer if you are not a good reader. But a majority of people just read and can never imagine, writing anything. So I think, if you want to be a writer, you have to read in a particular way. Gurus call this 'reading as a writer.'

It is easy to get lost, drugged, immersed in the narrative. But a writer as he reads, reads with two sets of eyes. He lets one set drown in the narrative, and trains the second pair of eyes on the techniques the writer has used as he created the piece.

Develop that second pair of eyes, my friends.

I am now reading, 'the Describer's dictionary-A treasury of Terms and literary quotations' by David Gramps.

I will read at least 50 books this year. That is the gift i promised to the writer friend in me.

Sabz said...


I have begun to read 'Home Boy' by Pakistani writer HM Naqvi. It is set in the US during the 9/11 attacks, and tells the story of immigrants and their complex issues.

I have been reading in bits and pieces the classic by VS Naipaul, 'Mimic Men'. It is a difficult book to read, but a beautiful one.

Along with these, I keep with me 'The Story Of My Assassins' by Tarun Tejpal.

I am not an avid reader, but you can't find me without a book on me.

Unlike Manu, who reads mostly nonfiction, I am headlong into fiction since I am writing a novel.

So, I read to learn about craft, technique, and to get inspired to write my book.

Cris, what better writer than PG? My wife, Jeena, too is a PG-addict. So is Mr Tharoor!

When I first heard about PG Wodehouse, the image that came to my mind was a log house on the slope of a hillock. Don't know why, but then I thought it was Woodhouse!

Keep writing folks!


PS: I am waiting for more entries under musical words--not necessarily name of places alone.

Mercedes said...

Arggh You have me feeling guilty again. Months since I got my hands on a good book.

But let's blame that on my 'preoccupations'. Poetry.That's how I get by these days. Anybody's.

Last good thing I read was Stephen Crane.The Open boat. "By thunder" it took me some time to appreciate ol' 'merican.

@Man-U Count me in.50 books!

Mercedes said...

@cris Don't call me a writer yet.At least not when Manu and Sabz are around :D

anu.j.das said...

I was not at all interested in reading but writer's forum inspired me 4 reading.

pooja said...

To be honest,I am not reading anything now.Before CHRISTMAS I returned all my lib books and am trying to stick to my textbooks.But I totally agree with what you said.I promise to read atleast 3 books a week soon after my exams...

Gouri said...

I'm presently reading Anne Frank's "The Diary of a Young Girl". I'm 14 and amma said its the right time to read Anne Frank and be a part of her to get an idea of the hardships she has faced in her life.
I've just started reading it and like her I too keep a diary where I unleash my thoughts, emotions and feelings.
I don't think I'll be able to finish it as I'm busy with my studies and assignments.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Anu, I should have checked for the comments more often.

Manu and Mercedes, 50 books would be a good count. I want to commit 50 too but I am a little reluctant after realising I have read only three or four books all of this year. And it is mid Feb already.
But yea I will go with 50 too.

Sabs, Pooja you should try PG, he is the best :-)

Anu: I am glad you have started reading. You will soon find yourself falling in love with books and every sight of a book stall or a library would make you weak at the knees until you get your hands on them. Keep reading.

Gouri: You are 14? You write very good for a 14-year-old. Anne Frank would be perfect for you. But then it would be perfect for any age.