Writers need to Read and Get Out More

Let’s take two people who have decided to become writers and, for sake of convenience, let’s call them A and B.

Wannabee writer A writes poetry, attends the local open mic night and is often seen on the periphery of local literary events, networking with organisers, literature development networkers and arts administrators.  Writer A’s bookshelves are crammed with how-to write and other books on creative writing techniques along with writers’ autobiographies, but there are no poetry collections, no novels, no short story collections.  Writer A’s poetry is entirely written in first person, set in a contemporary urban landscape and often about writing or failing to write.  At the open mic events writer A rehearses reading their own poems and, if you asked, couldn’t tell you who else read.  Writer A never shies away from approach other writers asking for feedback, however, it’s rarely given because other writers notice that writer A never buys a copy of their book and never asks about them or thanks them for reading.  Stuck on a bus, Writer A notices an elderly man is talking apparently to himself.  Writer A suddenly finds an article in the free newspaper incredibly interesting.  Writer A self-publishes a poetry collection and sends it off for review.

Wannabee writer B also writes poetry and joins a couple of local writing groups workshopping their own writing and giving feedback on writing by other group members.  Writer B’s bookshelves are crammed with an eclectic mix of poetry collections, novels and short story collections.  There are no how to write books.  Writer B also uses first person when writing poems but adopts different personas, experiments with writing in different historical periods as well as contemporary times, can take a walk through urban or country landscapes and rarely writes about writing.  At open mic events writer B doesn’t always read and listens to other performers.  Writer B doesn’t shy away from asking for feedback but tries to buy a copy of the other writer’s book or at least thanks them for reading and makes a comment to show they were listening first.  Stuck on a bus, writer B notices an elderly man is talking apparently to himself.  Writer B leans forward to eavesdrop.  Writer B self-publishes a poetry pamphlet and sends it off for review.

You are that reviewer.  Which collection would you look forward to reviewing?

Without even looking at either of the hypothetical collections, I know Writer A’s collection would be introspective, technically well-executed but rather boring.  Writer B’s collection will be varied and will probably take risks, not all of which will pay off, but it won’t be a boring read.

Which writer are you?  What are your thoughts?

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You are not owed a reading by a professional writer

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3 Responses to “Writers need to Read and Get Out More”

  1. Carl Gardner Says:

    I want to review Writer B, obviously, and I’d avoid Writer B very strictly. It seems to me the difference between these two is that one wants to be a writer; the other to write.

    I reckon you’re a bit optimistic about Writer A’s technical ability, too. Why would it be? I know I have real difficulties with technique – I mean metre especially, but I suppose working with imagery, too, and the ability to choose and use forms – but the only understanding I have of any of this comes from reading. How can you develop technical competence in isolation? I suspect Writer A’s work would be in free verse chosen for no reason (except that lots of others use it and it appears to require no discipline), with no apparent aesthetic reason why lines begin where they do, and that fails to achieve the very difficult trick of forming that free verse into convincingly poetic language.

    I reckon the most important single thing for a poet to do is to read others’ work, as you say; I think it’s vital to read work from the past as well as modern poems.

    You mention open mike events, Emma. Do you really think they’re all that useful for Writer B?

  2. Carl Gardner Says:

    Sorry… I meant I’d avoid Writer A.

  3. emmalee1 Says:

    Hi Carl, thanks for dropping by and commenting.

    Yes, I think open mic events are still useful for Writer B. The obvious benefit of open mics is that writers can read and get instance feedback from an audience. But there are also additional benefits in that writers can listen to and become exposed to other performers (and people they wouldn’t necessarily read or come across elsewhere) and it’s a chance to network with other writers and readers.


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