Monday, July 9, 2012

What You Put in the Hopper

This is a hopper:

Your brain is also a hopper.

There's a lot of conventional wisdom about what you should read while writing and a lot of it conflicts. Some say that you should read widely in your genre or read books like the ones you want to write - I heard one agent at a conference say that you should read 3000 words in your genre for every 1000 words you write. Others say to read outside your genre, to stay away from reading books or writers you admire because you could inadvertently (and badly) imitate those books.

I do both these things. I read in my genre - the kinds of books that I like to read and I also read books that are polar opposite to what I usually read and write. I don't write or normally read contemporary YA - so I've recently read 13 REASONS WHY and the (incredible) the FAULT IN OUR STARS.

But there's another thing I put in the hopper. Non fiction. I gravitate towards science based narrative non fiction, especially when it's about storytelling. I like to know how this thing, this writing thing that I'm compelled to do, works. Why do people tell stories? How do humans create narrative? Is it of any evolutionary use, or is it just a by product of being human? How does imagination work? Why does writer's block happen - I mean, what happens in the brain to cause a creative block?

These are the questions I've been considering in my reading life and they have nothing at all to do with what I'm writing. You could see this as a waste of reading time, I guess, when there are so many books to read. But I find these kind of books crucial, not to writing but to thinking. And usually, not always, I like to think when I write.

Here are two books non fiction books I'm reading now:

What do you read when you are writing?

1 comment:

  1. I read just about everything when I'm writing, including nonfiction. You never know when something is going to juice up that old light bulb in the brain. Plus, it provides cool conversation topics. And you never know when you might be able to include it in your own writing.

    Right now, I've been getting into comics (mostly Batman) and The Sun literary magazine.