Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Reading Leads To Writing, Even If All You’re Reading Is Life…

Here I go again, spinning out one of my theories about reading.

I’m either brave or clueless since these posts, written in the stillness of my writer’s cave, could be seen by much smarter people hundreds of years from now, when humanity has figured out this mind-thingie, and I could be laughed to shame.

Good thing I’ll be dead then…

Reading Life, eh?

In my recent post, Rewriting While You Read ~ We All Do It …, I spun out my ideas about how the reader changes the meanings the writer thought they were giving–not always in a huge way and not even in a bad way–leading to phenomena like all those widely divergent sets of feedback you’ve gotten if you’ve ever asked folks to review your writing.

I feel we all read life the same way we read books–blending our unconscious assumptions, personal histories, and fleeting feelings with the words on the page, and the “words” that life spells out for us.

My basic proof for this reading-life-like-a-book comes from the fact that we can read a book and become immersed in its “world”, seeing its contours and colors, smelling its scents, sharing its relationships…

I suppose you could say I’m proposing a radical definition of “reading” as the human mind interpreting whatever is presented to it.

Let me attempt a little formula:

World > Writer > Book > Reader > World

So, what about this post’s title’s claim that reading leads to writing? Just turn that formula around:

World > Reader > Book > Writer > World

The “Reader > Book > Writer” segment shows that all the reading we do causes books to be born within us (even if we aren’t consciously aware they’re there) and then, if we choose, we can be the writer of those internal books.

If you’ve read this far, you must be somewhat sympathetic to my reasoning since there have been plenty of blog post pot holes on this short journey that have probably made many readers abandon the trip :-)

My favorite author, C. J. Cherryh, has a powerful bit of writerly advice on her recommended reading page when she talks about Fritz Leiber, who she said taught her to write:

“When I was trying to improve my writing I took one of his longest stories and simply marked and mapped how he set up his information. I applied what I learned and sold the very next thing I sent out.”

Cherryh has written over 40 books and won multiple awards:

John W. Campbell Best New Author winner (1977)
Hugo Best Short story winner (1979) : Cassandra
Nebula Best Short story nominee (1979) : Cassandra
Hugo Best Novel nominee (1979) : The Kesrith
Nebula Best Novel nominee (1979) : The Kesrith
World Fantasy Best Novella nominee (1982) : Ealdwood
Hugo Best Novel winner (1982) : Downbelow Station
Hugo Best Novel nominee (1983) : The Pride of Chanur
Philip K Dick Award Best Novel nominee (1984) : Voyager in Night
Hugo Best Novel nominee (1986) : Cuckoo’s Egg
Hugo Best Novella nominee (1987) : The Scapegoat
Hugo Best Novel winner (1989) : The Betrayal
World Fantasy Novella nominee (1992) : Gwydion and the Dragon
British Fantasy Society Best Novel nominee (1995 : Invader
British Fantasy Society Best Novel nominee (1995) : Rider at the Gate
British Fantasy Society Best Novel nominee (1995) : Fortress in the Eye of Time
Prometheus Award Best Novel nominee (1998) : Finity’s End

So, anyone who’s actually read this far in the post, what do you think??
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5 responses to “Reading Leads To Writing, Even If All You’re Reading Is Life…

  1. Karla Telega January 18, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    First, I love Cherryh’s Foreigner series. It seems like most of the writers I know love to read, so unless there’s a chicken and egg thing going here, I think you make a good point. There are a lot of books that have inspired me, although the craft part develops over time. I really like the idea of taking your favorite writer and pulling his/her work apart to see how they did it. I have thought about doing that, but never really tried it.


    • Alexander M Zoltai January 18, 2011 at 8:24 pm

      Aha! Foreigner. You might already know but she finished the next book in the series on the 6th of this month–Intruder. Here’s her blog post about it.

      I’ve never done what Cherryh suggests either, at least not as a conscious, written effort. I have re-read and re-read and re-read, trusting my unconscious to discover the “hidden magic” :-)

      BTW, good to see you over here. I’m subscribed to your blog and look forward to its, to me, necessary humor to lighten the sloggier parts of my tasks…


  2. Pingback: The Dreams of The Writer Lead To The Dreams of The Reader… « Notes from An Alien

  3. jalapenopopey March 5, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    What a gift her writers and books to read link is for me. What a gift indeed.


    • Alexander M Zoltai March 5, 2018 at 5:00 pm



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