I don’t like to read. When people hear this, they’re usually like, ‘What??’ And then they think to themselves that there’s no way I can be as smart as they are – and what the hell are they doing talking to me? Then I explain that I don’t have the patience for reading. Kind of like building models as a kid. I couldn’t do it. I’d get halfway through one and walk away, bored. Or stoned. But then I’d see in the person’s eyes I was talking to, that they’d lost all respect for me. How could they have even been friends with me on Twitter if I wasn’t a reader? How could they have read my blog and ever taken me seriously as a writer? I must be a joker. A charlatan.
Then, in an act of desperation to save what credibility was left in their mind for me, I’d tell them that I was a literature major in college. Which I was. I had to become a literature major because when I transferred from the college in NJ to the one in FL, the FL college didn’t offer writing as a major. So the only way I was going to graduate was to switch majors – or else start over. I picked literature. And in the ten-months I was ever a full-time student in my life (at 32), I was tasked with reading something like 55 novels. Of course this didn’t work for me because I hated to read. So I learned how to listen well enough in class to deconstruct how any writer we were studying used language. Then I considered the author’s political position and any important social influences. Finally, I’d pick up a CliffsNotes version of the book and buzz through it highlighting anything I considered important based on what I knew already. I ended up acing literature. But the process of reading was, and still is, boring to me. I used to blame ADD – but that’s a cop out. Everyone has ADD. It’s just not that unique anymore. Anyway, I’d tell the person I was talking to about all this, and then say that I’d done all the reading I’m going to do in life – during those ten months. I was done with reading. And if this didn’t satisfy the person – I’d tell them the real reason.
The real reason I don’t read is because I love to write. And whenever I read someone I like, I end up attempting to write like them. Every fucking time. Even in blogs. And it happens without me even trying. Like osmosis.
Today I read The Bloggess. I love her style and wit and think she may be the funniest writer alive. But I can’t stand to read her because I end up trying to write like her. And no, not on purpose. The thing is, when you try to write like someone else, it’s a recipe for failure. Plus, it’s unoriginal. Not that there’s anything like true originality, mind you. I don’t believe that for a second. Here’s a blog post about that – but I really don’t want to get into the idea of originality in this post. My point is, that when I read an author I like, I end up attempting to write like them. And I want to explore my own voice. Even if it sucks. Because it’s still my voice – no one else’s. I’ve had people say I write a little like Bukowski. I don’t know because I’ve never really read Bukowski. I mean, I’ve read a little, but it was kind of vulgar and I didn’t like it. Maybe I’m vulgar. I don’t know. I’m probably just raw. Unrefined. And that’s cool. I’m not writing to a bucket. I’m writing to my heart. And so whatever happens, happens. The only thing that I know I control about my writing is that if I don’t read someone, I won’t end up being influenced by them and won’t attempt to write like them. So there it is. Usually this discourse is enough to convince the other person to change the subject.
But this is why I don’t read more than a book or two a year and don’t subscribe to any blogs.
That said, I’m nearly finished with reading To Kill a Mockingbird to my daughters. This is an exception to my rule. Mostly because Harper Lee was touched by God and this book has deep significant meaning to me. Plus, I know that as long as I live, and as many classes as I could ever afford to take to refine my style and make me a better writer – there’s no way in hell I could ever come close to her. Not even a little close. So I put that in my mind each night before I read a chapter or two to the girls. And then I let her words wash over me like a warm southern breeze. And sometimes, I cry afterward.
Thanks for reading.