there is nothing more frustrating to me than people who write who don’t read, but like specifically because they ‘don’t want their writing to be influenced’
everyone i’ve ever met who thinks like that has the exact same flaws in their writing. overwrought, purple-prose to no point, and trying to force their themes so heavily that the story vanishes.
they are people who spend most of their prose trying to recreate the wheel, sludging through plots that are tremendously cliched because they have no clue what the cliches are- but they are grasping at the first plots that come to them, which will often be, well, the cliched ones. and they won’t know how to break the mold in those stories because they refuse to explore the work of others.
your writing should be influenced by your reading and your environment. when it’s not, i assure you, it’s less creative, not more. the ideas created in a vacuum are always the ideas that anyone could come up with. when you are reacting to the influences around you, you combine ideas and themes to create new things- or at the very least, you learn how to put a spin on those cliched plots
this is so important. I think everyone should read, I think it’s all kinds of enriching, but if you want to be a halfway decent writer, it’s absolutely mandatory. You can’t create in a vacuum, or you’ll be trying to cobble together slivers of nothing when you should be inviting inspiration from all avenues.
When I did my writing degree there were people with all sorts of different attitudes. There were some people who had such a shallow reading history they still didn’t know proper sentence construction. We had set reading lists that were intentionally quite varied, and I appreciated that. I did my best to read them all. I was lucky enough to find one of my favourite books of all time this way. There were books I didn’t like, and some I hated, but I still read them and learned from doing so. When you want to write it’s just as useful to learn what you don’t want to do.
And then there was this other girl who was practically the antithesis of me. She was very, very productive (I’m not), usually hand-writing her ongoing story in a big binder in breaks or lulls in class. She had a whole novel nearly finished. She didn’t read anything we were set as part of the class. I asked why, and she replied in a very obvious tone, “uh, I don’t read anything that isn’t fantasy”.
She was a terrible writer. Her intention was to submit name-changed Twilight fanfiction for every class and assignment. Everything she did went straight from brain to page and was considered done, with no planning for construction or editing. I could barely stand to read her try-hard dark, gothic, medieval-to-present-day romantic melodrama. Giving critique was difficult because all I wanted to say was ‘read ANYTHING ELSE and you’ll figure out why this is bad’. You don’t go to a university to sit in your comfort zone forever and do your best to avoid coming up with a single original concept.
Basically, it’s like if you wanted to be an artist. And you REALLY liked the colour red. So much that you decided it was all you EVER would paint with. And you do paintings just in shades of red. You may have some technical skill, but the glaring problem everyone will notice is that there’s no depth, variety or nuance. You could dedicate yourself to being a great painter, but really you should just stop using so much fucking red.
Honestly, read more. Read everything. Being able to write well is not an innate, individual skill to be protective of. If you shield your creativity it’ll wither and become bland. By bouncing different thoughts off yourself, it’ll get stronger.