When you start out as a writer looking for any and everything that could give you guidance and help, one thing you consistently see is, “Read, read, and read more”. This can be bothersome for some or at least it was for me because I wanted to respond, “But I want to write…”. What should be added to that direction is: Read, read, and read more because you will learn how to write.
Cognitive absorption (I have no idea if this is an accurate term or even used properly but I like the sound of it and it’s my blog so…yeah) through reading is how I like to think about my ability to read different kinds of books be it fiction, nonfiction, biography, etc. and subconsciously collect sentence structure, characterization, inclusion of theme, setting tone, and several other important literary practices.
I always want to be learning. Whether by reading, listening, or being observant of the world around me, I cannot be the best storyteller I can be if I already think I know what I need to know. To this day, I find myself stashing away nuggets of info I come across. I’ll notice descriptions in a book about a people, places, or things and think, “That’s really good. I need to remember that detail or method”. I’ll be listening to a podcast and a topic will weave between two speakers and I’ll pick up on conversational threads that I think can be implemented between my own characters as they talk to one another. I’ll see something in a show or movie and make a note of the shape, color, and/or texture.
The notion of always learning can seem daunting and might make you feel overwhelmed. Learning doesn’t have to be reading historical tomes of 1500 pages one after another. Find a subject and explore it by whatever means. Books are not the only option. Podcasts, articles, and documentaries are all great mediums to absorb whatever it is you’re interested in. There is no test at the end, so go your own speed and remember you learn what you want to learn about once you’re out of school. Focus on those and you’ll enjoy it far more than when you were cramming for a test the night before.
Call to Action: I want to encourage two sources that I love learning from. The first is Joe Rogan’s podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience”. He talks with all sorts of people about all kinds of subjects from entertainment to deeper philosophical issues. The second are the shows “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown” by the late Anthony Bourdain. The passing of Bourdain last week came unexpected and is tragic. His traveling shows have been consistent staples for me because I always learn and find his approach to people through food a rare art.