Nobody who wants to be a writer gets by with just writing and never reading anything by anybody else. It is too easy to devolve into some kind of human mushroom that way, thinking only thoughts a mushroom could think, all fungus-like and having no chlorophyll of their own. You never learn to decode other people and other people’s thinking if you don’t read other people’s thoughts crystallized in writing.
And not every other writer is Robert Frost. Or even Jack Frost who thinks he’s Gene Kelly. There has to be some interpretation, some digging for understanding. What did that writer mean when she said political correctness was like a tongue disease? And what does it mean when a commenting troll calls me a nekkid poofter? Is that how he spells “exceptional genius”? I think it is. Trolls are not smart.
I know people have to make an effort to understand me. When I write, I am writing under the delusion that I can produce literary quality off the top of my head. In fact, I can barely produce hair off the top of my head, and it is gray when I do it. See what I did there? It is the kind of joke a surrealist makes, pretending the idiomatic expression you use is to be taken literally when it doesn’t literally make sense. That kind of nonsense is what my readers have to put up with, and probably also the reason why most of them just look at the pictures. If you have to think too hard when you read, your brain could over-heat and your hair could catch fire. I like that kind of purple paisley prose that folds back in on itself and makes you think in curlicues. But most people don’t. Most people don’t have fire-proof hair like I do.
Of course, there is the opposite problem too. Some writers are not hard to understand at all. They only use simple sentences. They only use ideas that lots of other people have used before. You don’t have to think about what they write. You only need to react. They are the reasons that words like “trite”, “hackneyed”, “boring”, and “cliche” exist in English. But simple, boring writing isn’t written by stupid people. Hemingway is like that. Pared down to the basics. No frills. Yet able to yield complex thoughts, insights, and relationships.
Sometimes, it doesn’t even take a word to make the point. For instance, why, in the picture, is Fluttershy trying to drink out of the toilet in the dollhouse bathroom? For that matter, why does a doll house even need a bathroom? Applejack doesn’t even fit in that yellow bathtub. I know. I tried to stuff her in there for this picture. And, as you read this, doesn’t this paragraph tell you a lot about me that you probably didn’t even want to know?
When I am reading the writing of others, I am looking for a cornucopia of things. I want to not only understand their ideas, I want to detect the limping footprints across the murder scene of their paragraphs and come to know the deeper things about them as well. I spent years decoding and trying to understand the writing of preliterate kids in my middle school English classes in order to be able to teach them to write better. And I learned that no writer is a bad writer as long as they are using readable words. I also learned that very few writers are James Joyce or Marcel Proust. Thank God for that! And given enough time I can read anything by anybody and learn something from it. I read a lot. And it may not always make me a better writer to read it, but it always has value. It is always worth doing.