Writers Beware

Writers, beware. Be mindful of what you read. The best way to write like the great masters of our craft is to read those masters, often—preferably out loud. Ideally, read them to groups of Actual People who are paying close attention. In a perfect world, read to a large alert audience of all ages every morning at 8:00 AM, on a sunny veranda, with no requirements for a sound reinforcement system, and receive copious remuneration for same, after the grateful applause.

Doing that, you absorb the thinking of the master you have read aloud. Your puny brain (in comparison to the master) begins a long process of plastic reformation toward the exquisite whorls and clefts unique to that master. Obviously your brain will never convolve into an accurate model of the master, but as it squinches around within your brainpan, marvelous metamorphoses will transpire in your writing.

So, to the warning: Beware reading the others. The non-masters. If you dwell on them, your plasticity will diverge from the path of righteousness and slowly squinch toward crass, lifeless blather. You will learn to write ad copy. You will excel in corporate hype. You will learn to describe what you might do instead of doing it. You will compare yourself to other people. You will lose your train of thought, nay, even the tracks. You will write annual reports. You will write movie reviews and Amazon product comments. You will describe the handling qualities of the new Infinity SUV, and you will explain how a claret differs from Bordeaux.

Even reading this warning taints your palette; repeated reading screws the pooch. You have been warned.

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