Reading Widely

I once attended the presentation ceremony of a writing competition I didn’t win and had a good chat to the judge, Archie Fusillo about my story which I’m happy to say he actually remembered reading amongst the 800-odd entries. Apparently, despite not winning, or getting a place… or a commendation… it still made the final cut of twelve. Top 12 of 800. And he remembered reading it! Happy!

Ahem! Digressing already and it’s only the first paragraph.

He was very encouraging. Keep doing it, he said. You can only improve by writing more, he added. The usual stuff. But he left the best advice for the entire audience. Among the witty things he said to entertain the competition winners and guests was his advice to “read widely”. And that doesn’t mean sitting with your legs apart on a crowded morning train, perusing the daily broadsheet! It means read something outside your preferred genre once in a while or your writing will become too narrow. If you normally like sci-fi, grab a western novel. If you usually read mysteries, head to the romance section of the bookshop… or library. Prefer spy thrillers? Find an autobiography. Obviously we don’t just mean fiction. Blogs, too. Subscribe to random blogs just for the writing style. The list is endless.

It’s all about broadening your horizons. Variety is the spice of life. A change is as good as a holiday, as they say. You get my drift. It can only be good for your writing.

As an aside, that’s another beauty of an ebook reader – a bloke can read chick-lit in public without worrying about anyone pointing and laughing at the book/reader combo!

So, taking Mr Fusillo’s advice I got hold of some ebooks that were, let’s say, not marketed towards my gender and completely different to my normal reads, including some literary classics.

I actually enjoyed most of the “wider” books I’ve read so far, including The Importance of Being Earnest,  The Great Gatsby, Heidi and an interesting maternally-oriented supernatural mystery called Chasing Amanda. Until I came across Wuthering Heights.

Apologies to Emily Bronte but I just cannot get into that book. I don’t know if it’s the stiff 19th century writing style or that I tend to nod off more while reading this than any other book. I know it is one of the great literary works of recent centuries but it’s got me wondering if I’ve really got the goods to be a writer if I can’t appreciate its alleged greatness. Does anyone else ever feel like that?

So Mr Fusillo, I will promise to continue to read widely, even though I’m considering abandoning Ms Bronte in favour of a Mr J Verne for the moment, if you don’t mind.


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