I’ve always blamed the fact that I’m not ‘well read’ upon my awful concentration span, which in turn I blame upon my epilepsy/epilepsy meds/etc, perhaps depression (It was only in recent years that I found out that depression affects your ability to concentrate).

Sometimes I worry that I’ve become a part of the new generational mindset of not being able to focus on one thing for say for than five or ten seconds at a time, thanks to the ever changing world of technology, social networking and media. But I’m not entirely sure that’s my reason, I’ve never been that ‘into’ ever changing, vomit inducing scenes and quickly ending thrills.

I have friends who don’t write that are better read than me. My partner has read more full length pieces of fiction in his adult life than I have, and he’s not that much older. When I go browsing books in say Fopp, I’m usually on the lookout for things he’ll like, bringing home piles of fiction that someday I’d like to read, but really I buy them so that he can read them first and generally relay me the gist!

But when I’ve met other writers there’s a huge part of me that can’t help but feel inferior as they mention writer upon writer and book upon book… And for years before I was in regular contact with any other writers at all I would pose myself the question, “Does a writer have to be well read to be a writer?”

When I was a musician I listened to lots of music. Anything that grabbed my attention. I’d often find bands I desperately wished I could sound like. Sometimes I’d try my utmost hardest to do that. Nearly all the time I’d fail miserably, I never really could write a melody like Kurt Cobain did, I couldn’t write succinct lyrics like Richey Edwards, I couldn’t sound so wondrous as Nick Drake and his acoustic guitar… And it was probably a good thing, it forced me to be ‘me’…

But when it came to writing I came to be frightened of ‘influencing’ what comes out of my hands with the work and words of someone else.

But I’ve seen films and watched television. I interact with other humans, I see life revolving around, I’ve experienced family life, and grappled with regular ups and downs… These are the things that influence me, and my subject matters, most of the time. Does this mean I am at a loss when it comes to not being ‘well read’?

I’ve always considered myself, creatively, a ‘punk’ kid (I don’t have a mohican and multiple piercings!) in that I considered myself anti-being told how something should be done in relation to any ‘artistic’ endeavour! When I learnt to play guitar, I taught myself. I never wrote songs in keys. I never learnt scales. I’d play, and then I’d play something else and if it sounded right it was fine by me. I was a point and shoot kind of creative photographer, and when I started writing I just let the words pour out on the paper. It was enjoyable for me, but for an audience… hmm?

But now I’m coming to accept that when you’re writing, even if you tell yourself that you ‘do it purely for your own pleasure‘ there is a part of you that hopes someone might read your work and enjoy it. Why else would tell others that you ‘write’? Why else would you show others what you have created?

And so, being on that learning curve involving finding and using the techniques that make things ‘pleasant’ to read, making things easier on the eyes, grappling and wrestling with making storylines that plausibly flow from scene to scene, am I at a loss when it comes to not being well read? I’m slowly learning how to ‘structure’ words on a page with a reader in mind. And paragraphs… Yes, they help! There’s a part of my brain, when the words are coming out, that sees everything as a neverending stream of consciousness (well, I know where the deep breaths are meant to be… why shouldn’t the reader? What do you mean they’re not in my head…?)

So I pose the question to anyone reading this as I’d love to read others opinions on this:
“Does a writer have to be well read to be a writer? Are you at a loss as a writer if you are not ‘well read’?”

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