(Not) Reading While Writing


(Not) Reading While Writing

I’ve heard more than one established writer say that each new project is like starting from ground zero. I certainly feel this way. Each story and essay and book is an experience of learning how to write all over again.

Where others might be discouraged, I’m content with this fact. Writing is a process of learning; feeling like a novice indicates to me that my curiosity and desire for intellectual inquiry are still fully intact. (Rue the day these things no longer exist in me.) Also, new projects have their own set of rules–process can’t be duplicated. What exhilarates me about this is that my sense of my limitations are always being challenged. So too, is my identity as a writer.

Most recently, I’ve discovered that I’m not simply a fiction writer, but a nonfiction writer as well. This is because the project that knocked on my door demanded it be written as creative nonfiction. I have little formal training in this, but that made me all the more eager to try my hand at this particular challenge.

Being a good student, my first impulse was to read books about writing nonfiction, followed up with research that might inform my subject. This was what I did with my first book, and the unpublished novel I wrote. But something inside me said this wasn’t the approach to take this time. Though I walked out of the library with a stack of books in hand, I never opened them. I still haven’t. The words flow; the writing is happening. I mark segments where I might want to do some research later, but for now, I’m just not following that path. I’m not at that stage in the process and maybe I never will be.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your writing is not read other people’s writing on a similar subject, or in a similar style. This decision, like all the other many decisions you need to make when writing, relies on intuition. So whatever one can do to keep that lifeline alive, do it.


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