Writers Who Don’t Read Are Illiterate

Thirty years ago my boss told me that people don’t read even though his wife was a librarian.  So why do Amazon and Barnes & Noble keep expanding?  The current question is whether people read books, magazines, or newspapers, and whether they read them in print or online.

Forty years ago Marshall McLuhan is famously quoted as saying that the medium is the message, but the message (or content) still has prevailed over the format in which it is presented.  Although some writers have abandoned the traditional media for the “content mills” online that generate volumes of data (as opposed to quality), the old adage of “garbage in/garbage out” still prevails.

No one is smart enough to expound on a wide range of ideas without learning from the knowledge and experience of others.  Unless you are on a very high “A” list, a member of the ultra-rich, or serve on a multitude of corporate boards of directors, then you don’t have the “inside scoop” of discriminating between what is trendy and what is the “next-coming-thing.”   The owners of Microsoft and Google supposedly are not frightened by their competition but by the kids in a garage somewhere who are coming up with the next great idea that no one has thought of before.

Well, these ideas don’t come out of the blue, and trend analysis has been around a long time, i.e. the Toffler’s Future Shock. So don’t spend all your time sending out queries, blogging, or gossiping on social media.   Read something outside of your frame of reference, especially something that isn’t related specifically to writing as a career.

For generations the impetus has been on science and technology as the savior of the universe, and a “liberal education” has been demoted to second-class status as though it were a discipline only for rich dilettantes.  But a “well-rounded” education is important not only to critical thinking but also to an understanding of our social structures and human nature.  Technocrats have a very limited field of vision that allows them to easily get blind-sided when the markets shift.  Reading on a broad range of subjects is still the easiest way to a self-taught education that you won’t find in any school with a formal curriculum.


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