Writers write about reading, writing, research

quotation-marks172x172Not everyone who reads is doing research. Not everyone who does research in the broadest sense (looking up useful information) writes about it. But everyone who publishes research must read first.

Indeed, anyone writes anything must read first. A friend of mine wrote an autobiography, and compiled as much documentation as he could find in order to refresh his memory and insure accuracy.

Novelists must not only read other literature voraciously, but if they want respect for their novels, must conduct research to make sure that they describe places, customs, etc. accurately.

Whatever else they write about, writers often write about reading, research and writing. The title of my blog replaces ‘rithmetic in the familiar “three Rs,” but the previous sentence puts them in their logical order for organizing this post.

Writers write about reading

Reading is important for its own sake:

Family reading

Big Read. Family reading program in Surrey County, UK.

“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.” – Kate DiCamillo

“We are the children of a technological age. We have found streamlined ways of doing much of our routine work. Printing is no longer the only way of reproducing books. Reading them, however, has not changed.” – Lawrence Clark Powell

“The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries.” – Rene Descartes

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” – Ray Bradbury

“Reading and writing, like everything else, improve with practice. And, of course, if there are no young readers and writers, there will shortly be no older ones. Literacy will be dead, and democracy – which many believe goes hand in hand with it – will be dead as well.” – Margaret Atwood

Reading is also important for more than just its own sake!

“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” – Will Rogers

“In place of practising wholesome self-abnegation, we ever make the wish the father to the thought: we receive as friendly that which agrees with, we resist with dislike that which opposes us; whereas the very reverse is required by every dictate of common sense.” – Michael Faraday

Or another way to express pretty much the same thought:

“The books that help you most are those which make you think that most. The hardest way of learning is that of easy reading; but a great book that comes from a great thinker is a ship of thought, deep freighted with truth and beauty.” – Pablo Neruda

But read critically!

Bookworm (reader)“It’s from the newspapers that people I know – relatives and co-workers – have got the idea that crosswords are a prophylactic against Alzheimer’s. Newspapers are of course also the place where crosswords (and now sudokus) are most readily available, so the association is presumably good for circulation.” – Alan Connor

“Anyone who wants to write must read; he must have read continuously and he must continue reading. What he reads should either be informative or of at least passable literary quality – for all writing (as indeed all art) is to a great extent derivative, and if you pour garbage into a blender you’ll get blended garbage out.” – Reginald Bretnor

As important as reading is, it is not enough:

“Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.” – John Locke

“Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God.” – George Washington Carver

Writers write about research

Scientific research“Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing”. – Wernher von Braun

“Do research. Feed your talent. Research not only wins the war on cliché, it’s the key to victory over fear and its cousin, depression. – Robert McKee”

There are lots of ways to conduct research. All of them start with reading.

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write: a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” – Samuel Johnson

“A good deal of time spent researching this book might well have been wasted and valuable opportunities missed if it had not been for the help and suggestions of archivists and librarians.” – Antony Beevor (Hear! Hear!)

“The library is not, as some would have it, a place for the retiring of disposition or faint of heart. It is not an ivory tower or a quiet room in a sanitarium facing away from the afternoon sun. It is, rather, a command center, a power base. A board room, a war room. An Oval Office for all who preside over their own destinies. One does not retreat from the world here; one prepares to join it at an advantage.” – Eric Burns

“The way to do research is to attack the facts at the point of greatest astonishment.” – Celia Green

“You’ve got to make an effort to get the details right, because even through someone picks it up and knows it’s a novel, they know someone’s made it up and they know it’s not real, if you make a small mistake they will cease to imaginatively engage with the story.” – Sara Sheridan

No one ever said that research is easy. It involves a lot of frustration and a lot of drudgery.

“Time… is an essential requirement for effective research. An investigator may be given a palace to live in, a perfect laboratory to work in, he may be surrounded by all the conveniences money can provide; but if his time is taken from him he will remain sterile.” – Walter Bradford Cannon

“A scholar must not only be capable of hard, often totally resultless work – he must actually relish it.” – Richard D. Altick,

“Anyone could be seduced by research when the results poured in. The trick was to love it when the results weren’t forthcoming, and the reasons why were elusive.” – Lisa Genova

Writers write about writing

student writing“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” – Mark Twain

“Here’s a slightly outrageous tip: Don’t respect the text. Just because you’ve written something down doesn’t mean it has a right to exist. If your internal editor can find a better way to say something, junk the original version and go with the new one. If you can’t find a better way, and the passage really isn’t good, junk it.” – Crawford Kilian

“One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper patterns at the right moment.” – Hart Crane

“Even the best writer has to erase.” – Spanish proverb

Good writing requires more than just skill

“Many books require no thought from those who read them, and for a very simple reason; they made no such demand upon those who wrote them.” – Charles Caleb Colton

“Learn as much by writing as by reading.” – Lord Acton

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” – Benjamin Franklin

Eventually, every writer must stop writing and move on

“’Good’ now is better than ‘Best’ never.” – Phillip Gary Smith

“You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success – but only if you persist.” – Isaac Asimov

Photo credits:
Big Read. Some rights reserved by Surrey County Council News.
Bookworm (reader). Source unknown
Research. Some rights reserved by IRRI Images.
Writing. Some rights reserved by Star for Life


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