Friday, June 17, 2011

Reading or Writing: Which would you choose?

My Twitter feed is filled mostly with agents, writers, and publishing houses. It’s one of the easiest ways for me to keep up with book trends, what’s new in the publishing industry, and it’s a great way to find some new ideas for my own writing. I also love following the discussions of fellow word lovers about their writing habits and how often they fill their coffee cup throughout the day. On occasion someone will post a question that leads me to ponder an answer that is longer than the 140 characters I have to respond. I saw one such Tweet earlier this week.

The question presented was, if I had to give up either writing or reading, which would I choose. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one this question gave pause to. In fact, the responses she retweeted proved that. Rather than responding immediately, I decided to think about it a while.

I’ve taken breaks from both over the years, but after a short period I’ve always come running back. As I’ve said in previous posts, writing isn’t just a creative outlet for me. It’s how I process thoughts, work through struggles, and deal with conflicting emotions. It’s far easier for me to express myself with a pen than it is to speak the words. Writing is how I think.

Reading on the other hand is more than just a pastime. I use it to garner new information (or as a friend would say, add more useless trivia to my already endless recollection). Reading plays a pivotal role in how I understand the world in which I live. It also stretches me by presenting me with new ideas and concepts. Reading is how I learn.

Having to choose one over the other is like asking me which hand I would prefer to keep. I rely heavily on both.

Which would I pick: reading or writing?

When it comes down to it, I could find other ways to express myself if I needed to. I could learn to paint, dance, or polish the flute that’s been sitting unused in my closet since I graduated from college. It wouldn’t be the same, but I could learn to adapt given time. It might even be good for me.

Learning requires more than simply relying on hearsay. It demands diligence, study, and looking at actual sources. There are places I’ll never be able to visit, experiments I can never perform, but biographies and diaries can give me a glimpse at what others have spent lifetimes discovering. Coupled with that is the fact that I can re-read a book and still enjoy it more often than I can re-watch the same movie. Books leave more to the imagination.

While this isn’t a real decision I have to make, it did challenge me to take a good look at myself and I gained some interesting insights as a result. Anything I will write or say has been said before in some form or another — in pretty much every case, far more eloquently than I’d ever present it. It also reminded me I’d run out of things to say long before I could soak up a fraction of the knowledge of those who came before me. So when it comes down to it, I decided I prefer to learn as much as I can, and not just about writing. Perhaps if I’m lucky I’ll be able to pass on a nugget of knowledge succinctly enough that it will aid another seeker on her own journey.

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