Was your Christmas merry? Did you have a happy holidays? Ours might have been too good – I’ve been a lazy, lazy boy as of late. I’ve been seeing more of the family though, and balance is what it’s all about (though I do need to be careful not to balance family home life with family homelessness…)
Through all this laziness, I’ve been thinking lately about why people read. Is it to be entertained? Is it to be inspired or to learn new deep truths? To see new insights into the human condition? All of the above?
(Am I getting to querisome?)
This is important to me as a writer because I truly believe the writer’s first responsibility is not to his or herself, but to the reader.
To this end, my working model so far has been to respond “all of the above”. My novel is designed to be a nice, light, fast, entertaining read for those who like to skim, but I’m also trying to include some depth with those bits of symbolism and “reading between the lines” passages that get English majors (like me) so hot and bothered. I’m also experimenting with style so that the whole reading experience is enjoyable, not just the story.
Whether I succeed or not has yet to be seen. But I’m trying.
It occurs to me though that I need to find out the very basic essence of reading to improve my approach to writing. It seems like a self-evident question, but when you consider it, it’s really not. Reading is very much a learned thing, not an innate human need/urge like breathing or eating or sex drive.
Even enjoying other arts like looking at paintings or listening to music has a firm basis in human biology that reading doesn’t quite have. There is nothing primal about reading like there is in other arts. In fact, it is an almost purely intellectual exercise, the exact opposite of primal. We derive enjoyment from reading – it’s not inherent like feeling the sun on our faces.
But why do we get enjoyment from it? For that matter, why does an intellectual activity stimulate such a visceral response in some cases?
I have a feeling that if writers can pinpoint that, they’ll be more successful.
What do you think? What exactly is it that makes reading novels so enjoyable for you? Why do you read other formats (non-fiction, memoirs/biographies, etc.)? Why do you read this blog, for that matter?
I’d love to know – drop me a line or leave a comment below!
Editor’s Note: Just as I was finalizing this post (literally), this came in my email:
Puts a whole new dimension to the question of reading: not just how we read and what format, but even the type of “literature” we read. (Should be noted in reference to Seth’s comment that old people rarely approve of what “the young people these days” read, or watch, or listen too.)
Novel Writing Totals
To date: 56 hours