If the statement “what we read matters” seems familiar, I can’t take credit for it.
Reading to different levels of intelligence matters. There’s a difference in the level of engagement required to process The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man than there is for The Count of Monte Cristo and Harry Potter.
Comparatively and comparably, there is a difference between reading scientific literature, factual analysis of [something, like baseball stats] and reading fiction. They’re structured differently.
In scientific writing, a field I am familiar with due to my background as a Chemistry and Psychology student in college, writing requires an analytical, “here are the facts” kind of approach. You lay out your hypothesis, then you state what happened. There isn’t any real creativity involved in the process. I mean, there’s definitely color and personality seeping through. After a while, I can tell who wrote certain pieces, just like any work of writing. Generally, that’s pretty dry flair.
Creative writing is, well, completely different. We’re making things out of nothing; fabricating factual fiction, as defined by the rules, stated and unstated, of our respective and prospective universes.
This is all to say different rules apply. Even when reading. Reading is a great way to expand vocabulary and try different ideas.
It’s worth noting that we pick up tendencies from whatever we read.
I’ve always said “Read Everything” but context matters. Probably.
Frequently, I read technical articles on SCOTUSBlog and FiveThirtyEight. That is a completely different style than the Flash Fiction I post on Fridays. These articles are, mostly, attempts to present information in an unbiased, intelligent manner. Sometimes, they have other agendas.
The language is key here. Scientific articles have no interest in flowery language. The point is to convey information efficiently and, hopefully, convey some degree of expertise. Paragraphs are longer, requiring actual attention, not acquiesce to the shorter attention span of online consumers.
Structure is also different. Notice this article has shorter paragraphs, broken up to keep the readers attention, because if you can’t get all the information from the title or at a glance, clearly it’s not worth reading. Though, reading online does require a different structure than reading a physical page.
Still, writing to entertain is different than writing to inform. The now defunct Grantland actually had this idea down pretty pat. The articles I was interested in reading from them were longer pieces, with thicker paragraphs, denoting more thoughts and analysis than just passing coverage conveyed ostensibly as depth.
Boiling my point down, reading everything I can get my hands on is great. Some days, I feel like I haven’t read anything or that I haven’t read enough. This is because I’ve let non-fiction news articles capture most of my reading time.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, it’s almost reassuring to know that I’m still spending a significant portion of my time reading and thinking. On the other, this type of reading isn’t forwarding my craft or expanding my horizons. If it is, it’s expanding them in the wrong way.
Part of me wonders if this isn’t part and parcel with my problems writing this blog. The audiences might be too disparate. One wants something creative and the other finds interest in the minutia and details.
Still, these are the things that I find interesting and, given that I do in fact have friends I can share these thoughts with, perhaps this is the niche of a blog that I can carve out. Nothing so spectacular as a million views a month (like John Campea’s old movie blog) but definitely something that I can be proud of.
What I read matters. Not just the word count but the types of articles and websites I read. That may mean cutting down on the junk food like IGN. None of this is research for something I’m writing. It’s just filler.
All that being said, does anyone have anything good to read?