It’s so easy to get caught up in this idea of reading as a writer that it becomes this rule, a dogma. Some writers, like Stephen King in his famous book on writing drives home this point where it’s easy to internalize in this way. I have to admit it’s easy to feel guilty if the reading falls by the wayside for whatever reason.
When this happens, reading becomes a labor. This takes whatever joy there is in reading a work someone else created out of their own dreams and desires that it destroys the point of reading altogether.
Reading is about listening, hearing the story a writer is telling you. Or, it is to take in the view someone is presenting you. This is what it is to be an active reader.
Sorry, that is the English teacher part of me talking, but it is true. We do live in an age where context is missing and public figures are constantly shouting that that’s not what they said. Often, the context is deliberately hid, but a bigger issue is that many of us aren’t fully equipped to truly see it, especially when we are caught up in what outrages us.
I got it in my head as a young man that somehow reading a book is like eating it and writing creatively is like shitting out your literary meals. I’ve never seen it explicitly said like that. However, when you are advised to read to shape your own language and learn the form of wiring, it’s easy to come to this view. And I’m starting to realize how warped it is.
I suppose it’s better than plagiarism, which is like gobbled up prose that’s vomited up too soon and the sick is still very recognizable as the food. Often, it’s voluntary like the inaccurate image of Romans going into the vomitorium to disgorge the contents of their stomachs so they can eat more.
This year, I do intend to make reading a more regular practice. I also resolve to get past the baggage so that reading is more the act of listening than it is looking for something to steal. In cultivating the act of listening as a reader, I myself can present my story in a way that the audience can listen themselves.