How Do You Read?
It’s a misconception that the creative process is actually creative. It is, rather, a process of reorganization and performance. The input comes from everything around us—our home, our family, our friends, our neuroses, our parent’s habits, our friend’s foibles, the bedroom from our childhood, the odd accent of our 3rd grade teacher…you get the picture.
The creative process is really just the way our minds (or souls…or what have you) filter, combine, splice, recombine, marinade, and ferment the various inputs, in the attempt to create something interesting. And while we do control the output to some degree, it’s also directly affected by what we choose to put into ourselves.
By design, this blog tends to focus on the output of the creative process; nurturing the fragile writer’s ego, to help us output something we will be happy with. But we shouldn’t neglect the input side of the equation. As writers the easiest way for us to influence the input into the creative process is by choosing what we read.
How do you choose what you read? Are you one of those who carefully choose the next few books? Or do you zip off in new directions on a whim? Is your reading list guided by the random fluctuations of the local library? Do you stick to one genre, or move freely between the sections of the bookstore?
There is a idiom in writing that you should read what you want to write, so it follows that if you want to write something particular, you should read books that will nudge you in that direction.
I tend to read in mad bursts. I’ve always been a heavy reader. Several years back—out of college, but before I had a family—I kept track of my reading for one year, and it amounted to 276 books. But from the time I arrived in Raleigh until April of last year I read almost nothing. Right now I’m on a tear, averaging about a book a day. If I find an author I like, I’ll probably read everything at the bookstore by them before moving on. Often, browsing the citations of an author will send me off a wild chase through a less-traveled area of the bookstore.
This leads to a rather disorganized bookshelf. My to read shelf is crammed with wildly disparate titles. And some books that I very much want to read, will sit untouched for months as my subconscious chases down one elusive idea or another. I just counted my to read shelf—72 books.
This all leads to a wild streak in my own writing—one I have yet to tame (and truthfully, I’m not sure I want to). I will simultaneously work of a humorous sword and sorcery story, a hard sci-fi, a psychedelic story about insomnia, and a character-driven non-genre short.
So, how do you read? And how does it affect your creative output?