Want to be a writer? Six reasons you should stop reading

Okay. I’m in badass mode.

Advice to aspiring authors, 101: Read, read, read!

Over and over, that’s what I hear published authors hollering.

They say read voraciously, read widely, read like your life depends on it.

Great advice. Fantastic advice.

Up to a point.

If you’re an aspiring author, I would add, please, please, please, don’t read too much.

Here’s why:

1 Reading takes time.

Have you got that much time? Writing is infinitely harder and it’s way more time consuming than reading. You should be at your desk, writing. Not lying on the couch reading another book.

2 Your mind will get cluttered.

You end up with a head full off other people’s characters and plots and stylistic foibles, and your own voice (which early on is tentative and shy) gets buried.

3 You’ll intimidate yourself.

Your inner artist doesn’t need to be intimidated. She/he needs to be supported. Aspiring authors need to focus on honing their craft. They need to ignore what others are doing or achieving, and get cracking.

Stay in your own lane. At least for a while.

4 You’ll get confused. 

What should I do? How should I do it? Maybe I should do it this way, that way, start here, start there, try to be more like so-and-so… Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Give your brain a rest. More importantly, give your imagination some space.

5 You risk being derivative.

This is usually unintentional, but it’s a right pain.

I’m not just referring to voice. Everyone’s had that experience. You know, mimicking the voice of what you’re currently reading.

When I read Harry Potter, I kept calling everyone in my WIP ‘dear boy’.

No, it’s not only voice. It’s plot devices and narrative structures you risk regurgitating. Maybe even characterisations.

6 You risk stifling your unique creative impulses.

By losing yourself in the work of others and, let’s face it, comparing yourself to them, you might end up second guessing yourself, undermining your own talent, disregarding or dismissing what could be fresh, original and uniquely YOU.

That would be beyond sad.

Don’t get me wrong.

Don’t send me hate mail.

I’m not saying don’t read, EVER. Geez.

I’m just saying, if you’re an aspiring author there comes a time when you need to put some boundaries around your reading.

You need to be selective, too.

Read quality. Maybe only read, say, the top five in your chosen genre.

Study the best. Forget the rest.

Reading everything that comes out, keeping up with latest trends, studying the market. Urgh. That’s just time-wasting. Procrastination disguised as research.

Honestly, you don’t have to kiss ALL the frogs.

Are you at that point?

Are you ready to drop your training wheels and pedal along on your own for a while?

Give it a try. Trust yourself. Trust you know enough. Trust that just for now, you’ve read enough, gleaned enough, absorbed and integrated the basics.

For the time being, write, write, write, rather than read, read, read.

Sharpen your focus.

See how you go.

Jen xo

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