On Writing, Writing Life

Walk the Walk – When Writers Don’t Write

I’m always miffed when a writer happens to mention that they don’t read. What?! What does that even mean? How can one take advantage of that great and powerful learning tool one gets from those who came before them, if they don’t pay attention to those who came before them? I don’t care who you are, you will be a better writer if you actually READ. This is WRITING101, folks.

Although I love writing novels, I’m actually pretty passionate about writing plays too. I’m not going to write plays without attending plays. I always talk about my dislike of the scaffolding of the world. I don’t want to see the surly little man behind the curtain. I want the benefit of kites…without the necessity of string. (I know. I’m speaking in tongues again, aren’t I? Sorry. I will attempt to make sense.) What I’m trying to say is I want to see the magic on the stage and on the page. But I want a flawless curtain between that magic and the mechanics that it took the writer to get to that stage. I don’t want to care about the process. I want to be post-process where I can just sit and enjoy the thing. The thing is the thing, after all. Yes. A play needs a playwright, actors, a director, set painters, wardrobe. It needs SO much to go from the first words the writer pens to the closing curtain at the end of the show.

I feel that if I invest the time it takes to go to a play, to sit in the audience and watch a performance…I will be learning all the steps I’m not taking in. Just by being there. Just by seeing the final product. I will intuit all the scaffolding. I will walk away from every performance having learned how to be a better playwright.

This is also true of the experience I take away from reading each and every novel I read. The process of taking in the story is a necessary process to making me a better writer. We (WRITERS) learn from one another. To think we can go through life in a bubble of solitude and still be a great writer is such a weak and erroneous concept. Don’t. Just don’t. If you want to be a writer, read. If you want to be a playwright, attend theatre. Hell…this is true of almost everything. If you want to be a musician, be a voracious appreciator of music. If you want to be a painter, go to museums…stand in front of a great work of art and stare at it until it no longer makes sense. Stare at it until the colours bleed from the canvas and all you see are dots and brushstrokes and nonsense.

Whatever your passion, you will be better at expressing it if you first (and always) immerse yourself in the works of those in your field who came before you. Always remember to learn from others. A vacuum is not a great place for a writer to exist within. Number one, they will think they’re good when they’re not. Number two, they will never grow. Number three, just…what’s the point? How can one be passionate about some art-form, or what-have-you, if they don’t even appreciate the works of others from that discipline? If you’re a writer who does not read, question your motives. You’re doing it wrong.

When not writing, explore. If your goal is to write novels, read novels. If your goal is to write plays, attend live community theatre. If your goal is to write screenplays, watch movies. This is not a new concept, just something that comes up every time I hear a writer saying they don’t read. For me, that’s almost an impossibility. I write BECAUSE I read. It’s because of my love of writing that I want to be a part of this great and marvelous thing. The arts are propelled by tradition. We see, we appreciate, we emulate. It’s the way the wheels turn. Don’t be a square wheel.

I leave you with Jane Siberry’s SYMMETRY…because it’s the way things have to be…

In case you haven’t heard, my 4th novel BURN BABY BURN BABY is now available for pre-order on Amazon! (-:

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1 thought on “Walk the Walk – When Writers Don’t Write”

  1. Hey there…
    I was at the Northwords Workshop this weekend in Bracebridge. They gathered an impressive group of writers, wannabes, and published authors. i was a tad disappointed that they had 3 ladies there from reputable Literary agencies, but no one there who reps screenwriters, or TV writers. I’ve asked them if they could level the playing field next time.
    It’s always inspirational to hear writers read from their works. That’s what it’s all about, really.
    I always get ticked when I tell someone I’m a writer and they assume that I write novels. Uh, ho. NOT all writers write novels. We write screenplays, TV shows, stage plays, newspaper columns, magazine articles, blogs, speeches, comedy routines, etc. etc.
    Guess I just needed to purge. Thanks for listening.
    I’m a member of the WCDC, and have managed to resist joiniing the CAA. They were leaning on that one a little too hard over the weekend. I’m just too Scottish, I think to spend the $.
    Have you ever attended the Second City Classes? It kinda intrigues me. Any comments?
    Cheers,
    Elayne Burt

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