Tag Archives: reading

Why Reading Only One Genre Hinders Creativity

 
In order to be a good writer, you must be a good reader. What do I mean by that? I mean that you need to read a wide-range of creative pieces.

17318222086_ce8de2611c_o.jpgWhile it’s important to read books in the same age group and genre you write in, it’s also vital that you read outside what you write.

I’ve met countless individuals, who adamantly refuse to read outside a limited range of writing. One such conversation I had with another person, when like this:

Me: I just finished a fantastic book!

Person: Yeah? What’s it about?

Me: These shadow divers—deep wreck scuba divers—who discovered a mysterious sunken German U-boat about two hundred thirty feet deep and some thirty miles off the New Jersey coast. No one knew the U-boat was there, and no one could identify it. That U-boat was considered one of the last great mysteries of Word War II.

Person: Wait. Are you talking about a non-fiction book?

Me: Yeah. It’s incredible and hard to believe that something like losing a U-boat could happen.

Person: I only read fiction. I like books that allow me to escape.

It stung to hear that person say that to me, mainly because a few years ago I’d have said the same thing. I was adamant that because I was a fiction writer I couldn’t learn anything from non-fiction. After all, fiction, especially fantasy and science fiction, wasn’t grounded in reality. Non-fiction was, and it was often dry and hard to get through.

I was wrong on multiple counts. One: Fiction is based in reality. The story may be situated on a different planet or have supernatural creatures, but the core of the story is grounded in human traits and emotions. Fiction is often used to explore controversial topics that are occurring in reality.

Two: There are many aspects of reality that are unbelievable, so much so that they seem to be fiction. Some of the atrocities I’ve read about in non-fiction have inspired my fiction pieces.

Another example conversation occurred during a writing workshop and went something like this:

Person: [shuffling my submission given to them the previous week] I don’t read fantasy or young adult, so my feedback probably won’t be any good. [A few others in the room nod in agreement.]

Me: That’s okay. I’m sure you’ve provided better feedback than you believe.

[Person stifles a frown.]

The person in this conversation was someone who only read and wrote literary pieces. More so, this person looked down on people who wrote fantasy and young adult. That translated into every interaction I had with that person, and that person’s attitude made it difficult for me to remain objective, when critiquing their pieces. I’m not a huge fan of literary works, however I still read them and try to glean the message beneath them.

While literary fiction holds value, so does fantasy, science fiction, contemporary, adult and young adult. Every story introduces you to a new interpretation of an aspect of reality. When you dive into a story, you put yourself in the characters’ shoes. You never know what you’re going to learn or what’s going to inspire you.

Fiction and non-fiction—any well-written story—can deliver meaningful lessons that have a powerful and lasting impact on readers. Don’t limit yourself because of pre-conceived notions about what you believe is good and what isn’t.

What do you think about reading widely?

(Photo courtesy of Isabelle Blanchemain.)

Embarrassment: Being an Adult Reading YA (This is Totally Me!)

92800243_463415080d_zI am an avid reader. Well, I go through cycles where I devour book after book, and then I lose the drive to read for a while. Typically in those dry book spells I watch too much TV.

But that’s getting away from today’s topic.

Let’s talk about embarrassment. When I was a teenager, I could get away with reading any young adult novel I wanted without feeling guilty. After all, YA books are meant for the 12-18 year old age range. However, with my teenage years growing further and further behind me, I find myself not wanting to read YA books in public.

Why?

I’m embarrassed. I feel like people will somehow look down on me for enjoying books that tend to not have much depth. (In all fairness, I get embarrassed over reading adult urban fantasy books as well.)

In reality, I realize most people aren’t paying any attention to me. Yet, there are those few who are, and after having some of my professors (I’m currently working on my master’s thesis) proclaim that they have less respect for people who read any sort of YA, fantasy, or science fiction, I’m all the more aware of what I read in public.

When asked what my favorite books are, I have two responses: one for the academic world and one for the social world. In the academic realm, I’ll say Jane Eyre, Beloved, and Dubliners. For friends and the more casual social world, I’ll say the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, the Abhorsen series, Born to Run, and Into Thin Air. (The first two series are YA, while the second two books are non-fiction.)

I shouldn’t feel this way. I should enjoy what I enjoy. After all, it is my life. And I’m not the only adult who enjoys reading books targeted for a younger audience.

Several years back (okay, a few more than several), my friend convinced me to go see the second Twilight movie in the theaters with her. We ended up sitting between a group of three or four fourteen-ish looking girls and a trio of middle-aged women. When the character of Jacob Black (played by Taylor Lautner) took off his shirt, both the fourteen-year-olds and the middle-aged women squealed in delight. The look on their faces was pure, girlish glee.

Neither group was at all embarrassed at being excited over movies that stemmed from books many people vehemently denounced as an author’s teenage wish fulfillment.

For a moment I found myself relaxing, thinking that it’s okay to enjoy some silly, shallow, and melodramatic things. But, even all those years ago, when anyone asked me what I thought of the movie, I’d say it wasn’t worth seeing again and tell the story of the middle-aged women, as if somehow by shifting the focus onto them no one would notice that during the scene where Jacob Black takes off his shirt, I appreciated his muscles too.

Do you feel embarrassed reading certain types of books in public?

(Photo courtesy of Jimmy Emerson, DVM.)