I overheard someone the other night in a writing course of mine indicate that she doesn’t like to read “how to” essays on the writer’s craft, because she’s not going to listen to anyone tell her “how” she’s supposed to write.  And another student mentioned that he doesn’t like to read actual samples of a particular genre of writing because he gets hung up on trying to write like this or that author.  Which brings me to the question: how can a (beginning) writer learn to write without reading?

For myself, I believe that essays on the craft of writing are valuable for many reasons.  One, they provide insight into past and current trends in a market; two, they share tips and guidelines from published authors who have, no doubt, reinvented the wheel to bring us—the readers and writers—tried information that we can pick and choose in our own writing; and three, they provide an opportunity to become better read, while at the same time becoming familiar with the different writing styles of seasoned authors. 

These reasons hold true for simply reading the craft, as well.  Many beginning writers feel their own writing style closely matches that of a particular polished author, so they like to follow them not to “copy,” but to improve upon their own techniques.  I like the validation that I’m either on the right track, or that I need to try something new.  And really, how can I expect to understand what works and what doesn’t, and more importantly, perhaps—what sells—without digesting as much of the genre as possible? ~ cs