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05/09/2014

Why I Read

shksprI read for lots of reasons, of course. For entertainment. For information. For intellectual stimulation. To fill up a rainy day, since I can’t play piano for eight hours at a time. But another reason to read is to make me a better writer. In a wonderful essay in the Atlantic monthly, Richard Bausch makes this point eloquently. Here is a tidbit from that essay, in which he laments the huge industry that has blossomed to provide people with “how to write” manuals. He thinks those manuals are a bad idea:

There are too many “how-to” books on the market, and too many would-be writers are reading these books in the mistaken idea that this will teach them to write. I never read such a book in my life, and I never will. What I know about writing I know from having read the work of the great writers. If you really want to learn how to write, do that. Read Shakespeare, and all the others whose work has withstood time and circumstance and changing fashions and the assaults of the ignorant and the bigoted; read those writers and don’t spend a lot of time analyzing them. Digest them, swallow them all, one after another, and try to sound like them for a time. Learn to be as faithful to the art and craft as they all were, and follow their example. That is, wide reading and hard work.

I suggest you check out the rest of his essay. Maybe reading it will make you into a better writer!

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