Beyond the obvious reasons of why authors should read works by other authors that have actually managed to make it through the process we all dread, er look forward to as a rainbow after a storm, I’d like to offer a rant on reading published works.
Two years ago I had the opportunity to meet one of my favorite authors, Jasper Fforde. As he signed my copy of his latest book I asked him if he ever felt like what he was writing was utter crap compared to what he reads of other authors’ works and how does he overcome such feelings. His answer is both illuminating and perhaps one that we’ve all heard before. Simply put, and paraphrasing, he said that he doesn’t overcome those feelings of inadequacy but allows them to drive him to improve his own writing.
Now, I know what you’re saying to me right now. “We’ve heard this before, why are we rehashing such an old topic?” Well, these feelings of inadequacy are what caused me to scrap my project I was working on for years. I have since hit on ideas for improving the story of that first manuscript and have revived the project. Frankly, I think we all need inspiration like this once in a while. It’ll help us overcome the slumps we may face and we’ll eventually be able to tackle that daunting process known as getting published.
Fforde’s insight also says something else about why we should read, though not directly. We should read to be inspired. Maybe what we write will never see the light of day but if we read something that makes us think, “I could do that” then we’ve already gleaned an invaluable benefit from reading. We’ve gained the gumption to try to tell the story that forms in our imaginations. And that, my friends, is something we should never take for granted.
Okay, I sound incredibly sappy now, but that’s sort of the point. Reading and writing are emotional endeavors that we embark upon willingly every day of our lives. So we read and read voraciously because we need that emotional experience. And that experience in turn enriches the worlds we create with our own words.
That is why we read. And that is why we should take the words of Jasper Fforde to heart and listen to them every day.