Writers Who Don't Read

May 5, 2007

Today I want to discuss that strange species of humans who call themselves writers - it's very important to them - and yet never read. I have met many of them, and they are invariably annoying, despicable idiots full of themselves. If I sound harsh, it is because I am.

The writer who does not read typically replies "Stephen King" to the question: "who is your favourite author?" and that does not mean that King really is their favourite author, it means they read one book of his, and little else. Why such a disinterest in general literature? Have you ever heard of musicians who do not listen to music? Can you name any band whose members do not listen to other bands? A writer who does not read other writers should be as plainly weird to you as the above examples.

Why do they not read? That one is easy. But before I explain it, let me tell you that the writer who does not read is in fact proud of not reading. They think that reading is akin to cheating, and moreover, that maybe they will reading something they will feel they wish they had never read, so they would be able to "discover" the idea on their own and write it. This is typical of the writer who does not read: he or she thinks that writing is mostly about proving to the world that one is a genius. They think it's about "being good"; they think it's about them. That is why they are proud of not reading; to them, it is the proof that they are worthy writers. "Look, I can write without reading!"

The problem in that is that the people who are most likely to read them - readers - those do in fact read, and thus care little about whether the author is capable of writing without reading. Nobody reads to see whether someone is able to write; when you read a book you're far beyond that stage of expectation. Being able to write is one thing, having something to say is quite another.

The writer who does not read is full of himself. He doesn't care about literature at all, he cares about himself first and foremost. It's an ego trip, nothing else. You've never heard of a musician who doesn't truly love music, and no real writer doesn't love literature, and reading. Whether you listen to music, or make your own, your love of it is sensibly the same. Not so for writers who do not read. Why? Because "literature" is only worthwhile to them insofar as they wrote it. That is why I say it is mostly an ego trip. It is little more than mental masturbation.

The bright side of this is that writers who do not read are very poor writers, and thus you will almost never face one of their works in any respectable bookshop. So no worries.

This being said, I have no anger towards people who write for themselves and are lucid about what they do; i.e. people who know they are not going for a Nobel Prize but do enjoy writing for itself. The category I discuss in this entry is the type that actually believes they are amazing writers and that everyone should read them because they think others will be as amazed as they are by the writing in question. The writer who doesn't read suffers from an enormous lack of references, standards, and means of comparison. He could write something completely ridiculous, or cliché, and never know it.

What upsets me about them too is this idea that they should not read because it may spoil them. That is a fact, they fear reading because they may come across an idea they would have loved to find themselves, on their own. Once again, whether they're aware of it or not, the "idea" is already written, and thus exists in the world outside their lives. That is the point they miss, they think it makes a difference whether they write something that already exists if they're not aware of it. Their focus is entirely on themselves; they utterly fail to see things from the reader's point of view, or anyone else's point of view altogether. They see writing as an act of making oneself special, or above the rest. I hate that. This is not what literature is about, or any art. This is what prideful idiots are about.

I will end this entry on the fact that the writer who doesn't read spends infinitely more time about telling others of their being a writer than on writing per se. They typically think that whatever they do, they do as a writer, or poet, because everything I said here about writers applies to poets too. If they cook, they do so as a writer/poet, if they take a dump, they do so as a scatological Shakespeare. They don't think that being a writer means you write, or research for a story, poem, novel, etc. It's a state of being to them; it has little to do with actual writing. It's just a means to transcend themselves into something Romantic and ideal to feed their hungry egos.