"On the Writer as Reader"
by Tim Kavi
My learning experiences at writing are a mixed bag. The writer does in solitude what readers will come to enjoy, if he or she is lucky and skillful.
Stephen King said that those that attempt writing ought to write four hours a day and read four hours a day. Now admittedly we who work as well as write might not have that much time to devote to our craft, but it is not doubtful at all that good writers are readers.
Now, we might not read things in the same way as the non writer. It is like the athlete watching another athlete, the musician attending another musician's performance, a doctor watching another doctor's technique. We see things differently when we read, we writers.
Many established writers have commented upon this. That we read with an appreciation for the style, the craft, the techniques that are missed by the lay reader, is clearly evident.
To me it is a rich experience, I am very happy and instructed by reading those that do their craft well and although I am still learning when I edit my own prose, I am painfully aware of the shortcomings of my own work. This notice in the act of revision helps me to get better and I like that. But I appreciate a good book, story, or article more than I ever did before. And I enjoy reading more than ever!
The teaching experiences of this cannot be overlooked. Everytime I read something I go to school.
I had a valuable lesson regarding dialogue when I recently noticed James' Joyce's comments about Ernest Hemingway and his use of dialogue. Specifically, Joyce called Hemingway's short story "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" the best story ever written in the English language. When I read it, I discovered that most of the story was dialogue--and skillfully crafted. Wow!
Now, along with my reading of books in my genres of interest and beyond these interests, I am having such a jopyful experience. I read with more depth and meaning than before. I appreciate the work the author had to do. The baring of their souls on paper. Now, I also read a number of books on writing improvement. I am reading Daine Mehta's "How to Write Poetry" and "Master Class in Fiction Writing" by Adam Sexton.
Powerful books that have already helped me. In Sexton's book we are brought along through experts like Austen's work amd Hemingway's. Also, short stories by Joyce and many other great writers to learn our craft. Along the way the book emphasizes that we read part of these authors' works to instruct us from what we read. I will read Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" and Hemingway's "A Farewall to Arms" as well as Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying" as part of this helpful curriculum. (And there are many more examples that Sexton uses).
I encourage all writers everywhere to relish all they can in the dialectic of themselves and their art; the writer as reader.--T.K.