While there can be various sides to this discussion, I would put my foot forward and say that it might not be necessary for you to read to become a writer. A writer has to write. There is no dearth of writers today who don’t read. How do you tell the difference?
When you see a social media commentator getting bored by the facts you cite in your arguments, know that (s)he doesn’t read! A non-reader goes by prejudices and ideological affinities and tries to tailor all the arguments according to his/her belief system. Such people will invariably unfriend/unfollow you on social media when you show them the mirror of common sense and rationality. This is not only a habit of commentators on social media but also sticks on ‘eminent’ writers who can’t write on issues with objectivity. I have been unfriended by quite a few writers of considerable repute on social media just because I tried to put forth data and facts in response to their misuse of fan-fascism. Cognizant of the number of followers and fans they have, such people peddle lies and exploit the power of fan-mob to spread lies like forest fire.
There is another set of writers who are plain-lazy. Their strength lies in making a listicle of almost everything. While there are good listicle writers out there, a majority of the writers do listicles to just churn out unimaginable number of articles every day. That is when writers have to meet their targets of x number of ‘viral’ articles per month. True to their intent, they inject the virus of laziness in the minds of their readers. Such listicles have nothing but only the Headers rewritten in complete sentences while elaborating. Most of the times, these listicles have information that you already know. This makes you reread and redigest almost the same piece of information all the time. These writers don’t have time to read because they are busy churning out ‘7-tips-to-avoid-reading’ articles all day long. Their madness with listicles is so obscene that even if they get themselves to read, all they read are listicles in order to churn out more listicles.
There is one more kind. The ones who don’t read so that their writing is not influenced by other writers, their style, and their literary devices. I have more respect for these type of people because in all probability they have just started out and will learn the importance of reading once they have started reading. I am writing this piece for the third kind of writers. They have a hopeful future.
The Real Question
In my opinion, the real question thus is- ‘Should we read to become better writers?’
I say yes. One can always write diaries and keep them for personal reference but if you publish your writings, comparisons are inevitable. To say that I don’t read to remain untouched in my writing sounds lofty but in reality, your progress as a writer slows down. If we learn them all through our own mistakes, one lifetime won’t be enough. One must learn from the experience of others. I’m sure if one sees a man falling in a ditch, he would try to not fall in the same ditch. This holds good for writing as well. I am taking a case in negative, one can easily extrapolate it to positive. To use any writer’s devices in your own writing is a choice you can always make but to not know them at all?, we don’t really have a choice then, do we?
You can still create your own words, phrases, and metaphors. Reading doesn’t prevent you from doing that. If it does anything, it only enhances your power to experiment with the language. This thought of not reading to avoid influence comes in the beginning but only once one starts reading, one understands the extent of bubble one has created for herself/himself. Language at its elementary scale, is a thing to be practised and mastered. You don’t speak or read a language for some time, the adverse effect shows when you sit down to write or read after the gap. So, to not read, in a way is detrimental to your command over the language. We are not writing silent novels. The stories that we write need the wings of language to fly. To take care of those wings is a writer’s supreme duty and responsibility.
Have a good reading/writing/reading day. 🙂