Reading AND writing?

I am back from my short holiday blog vacation so expect some book reviews soon. During the break I was thinking about the interplay between reading and writing and was wondering if the too are often in conflict. If one is a voracious reader can one be a prodigious writer? What about vice versa? I noticed interviews, authors often admit to not reading a great deal in their own field. Popular novelists don’t necessarily read a lot of popular fiction. It is my impression that critics don’t read a great deal for pleasure. If you make your living reviewing in books every book you read for fun is a paycheck missed in some sense.

On-line interaction is similar in my mind. A useful breakdown of blogging is between linkers and thinkers. The more time you spend on-line reading, or the more sources you read, the more likely you are to be a linker. Since so much time is spent reading and surfing, you end up just linking to your sources with a few comments. Only those with a lot of free time or great discipline can surf the web for hours and write serious posts that do more than just link and react. Plus, traffic generally flows to those that post regularly and this pressure pushes most toward the linker side. I don’t think literary blogs are much different from others in this respect. Obviously there are exceptions, thinkers with lots of traffic, but they are not the norm.

I am a reader more than a writer but I struggle with the thinker-linker issue. I enjoy the process of picking out books and reading them. I enjoy the search for knowledge and the pleasure of finishing a good book. This pressure to read is often counter-productive, however, as I fail to fully digest what I read or take the time to enjoy it. A good writer will take notes and organize his thoughts so that when the reading is done he has something intelligent to say about what he has read. A journalist will keep a file with useful bits of information at hand and will have reference material for fact checking and background. I am afraid I have none of this. Most of the time I simply plop down on the couch and starting reading. When I am finished I rarely jot down my thoughts or reactions. Thus when it comes time to write a review of share my thoughts I have little to go on except gut reactions and general impressions. This doesn’t lead to insightful reviews or depth of discussion. Personally, I would like to find a better balance. I don’t want to turn reading into a “job” but I would like to stretch myself a little more and work a little harder at my writing; to take something more concrete from my reading.

What is the point of all this naval gazing and blog analysis? Just thinking out loud really; blogging often leads me to ponder these sorts of things. I wonder if others see this issue the same way. Do you find it easier to read than to write or vice versa? What do you look for on-line, more thought out content or quick and interesting links? I would be interested in hearing what other people think.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).