Suspend Your Disbelief

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Writing without reading?

Behind in my 3rd Week (6:365 - Oct. 22)

Some frustrated soul on Facebook has started an “I Hate Reading” page. Even though–in keeping with the “I hate reading” theme–there’s nothing actually on the page, over 475,000 people “like” it. AbeBooks issued the following video, entitled “Long Live the Book,” in response:

Okay, so some people hate to read. Some people aren’t book people. But some writers apparently also hate to read. On the New Yorker‘s Book Bench, Macy Halford writes:

[William Giraldi] teaches writing at Boston University, and has been amazed at how many of the kids possess a passionate urge to write without also possessing an urge to read. This strikes him as crazy. “There’s an analogy there that I haven’t been able to complete,” he said:

Wanting to write without wanting to read is like wanting to ____ without wanting to ____.

He’d come up with a couple, unsatisfying answers, one involving race cars, one involving sex (he wouldn’t tell us what they were). But he threw it out to the audience to ponder, and now I’m throwing it out to you. What is wanting to write without wanting to read like? It’s imperative that we figure it out, because Giraldi’s right: it’s both crazy and prevalent among budding writers.

(Via.) Why would budding writers hate to read? Can you really write without reading? And for those of you who teach writing: if the answer is no, do you have trouble convincing your students that reading is useful?

Join the Discussion

  • Tisha

    Wanting to write without wanting to read is like wanting to swim without wanting to get into the pool.

    I love to read and wish I could spend all day doing that, that would be my dream job. Alas, I have not figured out how to make a living doing that, not yet anyway!

  • Lee Thomas

    Tisha, if you ever do figure it out, can you shoot me a quick email?

    Wanting to write without wanting to read is like wanting to scream really loudly without leaving your vacuum chamber.

  • Benito Reedus

    Wanting to eat dinner without wanting to hunt? No, that’s horrible.

  • I’ve come across this in my teaching, and, yes, some students have needed convincing. The good news is that, when directed to a wider range of writers than what they’ve been exposed to, most of them come around. A few doses of George Saunders, Stacy Richter and Jim Shepard–just to name a few– have cured a lot of minimal readers. Why would some budding writers hate to read? I think some–younger college students, I’m talking about here– had pretty deadly reading lists in high school. Or were assigned good books that were ruined by bad teachers. To this day I still associate Dickens with the test I messed up on in 9th grade when I couldn’t remember some detail about Miss Havisham’s dress.

  • Terry

    Well I am a college professor and I teach developmental writing and communication courses and I can admit that I don’t like to read. I think it is associated with the sheer amount of nonsense I had to read in various levels of college but I absolutely love to write… I can journal and write for days… I am also a slam poet… Don’t get me wrong I have to read sometimes but it takes a lot and is like pulling teeth…

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