Two Out of Three R’s

I don’t know how many of the younger generation have heard of the three R’s, but most of us over the age of thirty have, I’m sure. They, of course, refer to the most important things one must grasp during their years of schooling: Reading, wRiting, and ‘Rithmatic.

I have already touched a bit about writing in previous posts and will continue to do so in the future. I still have much to say on the subject, as do many others if my ventures through the blogging world are any indication. But for this post, I think we should concentrate on another R.

Of course, I’m talking about ‘Rithmatic. I can just see a few of you tilting your head to the side and raising an eyebrow. “Is he serious?”, you must be asking yourself. The answer is: no. Though I wish most of the teens out there would learn to at least add and subtract without the aid of a calculator, it has nothing to do with writing. Unless you count the extra time it takes at a checkout line because the clerk can’t figure out how much change to give you, time you could have spent in front of your computer chipping away at your masterpiece.

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Today’s post concentrates on Reading. I haven’t heard of an author who doesn’t read. Reading and writing go hand in hand. You can’t be passionate about one without feeling the same about the other. It would be like having a doctor who wants nothing to do with anatomy–it just doesn’t work.

“But Marc, there are a lot of celebrities out there who have written a book and don’t read because they don’t have time with their busy lives and all!”, some of you might say. I can easily explain that apparent paradox. Most celebrities don’t write their books. Don’t get fooled by the name on the cover. The celeb no doubt came up with the book’s content, but it was a ghostwriter who actually put the words together. And chances are pretty good that ghostwriter reads as much as he writes, just like the rest of us.

Reading has many benefits for any aspiring writer, no matter what field of work he or she wishes to jump into. You get to see words in action. You get to see how sentences are supposed to be structured and how they flow from one to the other. You get to see words you hadn’t seen before and see how they are used.

It doesn’t matter what you read, either. Textbooks give you technical insight into various subjects. I personally find them tedious, but they are out there for a reason. Thankfully, as an author, these kinds of books won’t really help me, so I can skip them without any ill effects. Newspapers give you insight on the world around you, but again, I avoid those. I get tired of hearing all the bad news happening around the world. If only good news would sell papers just as well, then maybe I would start reading them. Magazines concentrate on sex or health, it seems nowadays, so I leave them on their shelves also. But that’s because I’m lazy and my wife absorbs all the sex tips, so if I want to know anything, I just have to ask her. That leaves books, and those I read in abundance. I have my preferred genres and topics, as does everyone, but that still leaves me a myriad of options.

My first advice on what to read will always be something you will enjoy. Never sacrifice enjoyment. If you do, you will find your mind wandering more than you would like and you will find yourself learning less than you should. And believe me, even if it feels you’re not learning anything while immersed in your text, you actually are. As you enjoy the words, your mind will remember the sentence structures, the uses of conjectures and all those other things teachers drill into you in English classes. And it’s a lot more enjoyable to learn these lessons this way.

Secondly, for those who want to read with the aim to help learn how to write, choose something that resembles your aspirations. Aspiring journalists should read newspapers to see how facts should be relayed. Non-fiction authors should peruse books in their chosen fields. Fiction authors should read books in their preferred genre. And, of course, authors and editors of textbooks should delve into those ponderous volumes.

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The more you read, the more you’ll learn. You may not notice it, but other will when you just so happen to know the definition of a certain word without having to look it up in the dictionary (because you had previously done it when you first encountered the word). You will eventually put a complex sentence together, correctly following all the grammatical rules, without even knowing what those rules are.

Trust me when I tell you this: reading makes better writers. My post-secondary education was in the electronics field. I never took a university course in English. I wish I had, but I found out I could live without them. I’m sure they would have helped me, but I’m not going to dwell on that. When I got the revised copy of Knightfall after its first round of professional editing, I was quite pleased with the number of changes the editor was suggesting I make. There was a lot less red than I had expected, and almost half of these had to do with the use of punctuation. I had expected the manuscript to be covered with missing commas and semi-colons on every page, but it was nowhere near that bad. And it was all due to the fact I read a lot throughout my life.

Go out there and read something. When you’re done that, read something else. But don’t forget to keep writing as you do so.

~ by Marc Labelle on September 25, 2012.

2 Responses to “Two Out of Three R’s”

  1. Reblogged this on Jay .

  2. Great article. Thank you to tell us more useful information. I am looking forward to reading more of your articles in the future.
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