Sometimes I wonder if learning about music and how it works would make me appreciate it less. Like the magic would be gone. ‘Oh, I know how they did that! HA! That’s not impressive at all!’
How do people put together sounds that make sense and are rhythmic and pleasant to listen to? What exactly is a chord, anyway? How do you make the lyrics match the music? Or is it the other way around?
If I knew the answer to those questions, would I appreciate music less? I’ve been thinking about it, and I now know the answer. It’s no. It wouldn’t make me appreciate music less. If anything, it would make me appreciate it more. And how do I know this, pray tell? Well, it’s certainly not because I’ve learned to play the oboe or how to read music or anything silly like that.
No. It’s because of writing. I used the wonder the same thing about the written word. Like — does knowing all the rules of grammar, how to use every bit of punctuation and how to spell things make you appreciate the written word more? Or just to pick out all its faults?
Well, both, I guess. Probably.
Over the years I’ve stacked up more and more knowledge about the art and science of writing. Yes, it makes things like Twilight harder to enjoy (which I definitely did not drunkenly buy on my Kindle recently because I wanted something easy to read before bed. NO SIR). Ahem. Anyway. My point is, you should probably only read Twilight once, because the second time around you know what’s going to happen, and it’s just not as good.
Or, wait — was that my point? No. Obviously not. My point is that learning about the art of writing and putting words and little dots of punctuation together in a pleasant order — it makes you appreciate writing more. I can now be truly blown away by magnificent writing, rather than skimming through it and passively enjoying it on my way. Understanding it enhances the experience. Not only can I acknowledge a beautiful piece of writing, I can understand why it is beautiful. And that’s a powerful thing, because I can then harness that understanding and use it in my own writing.
And so I say — can you be a good writer without being a good reader? No. No you fucking cannot. If you don’t love reading, how can you love writing?
If you want to be a writer, but you loathe reading, I’d posit you’re treading the wrong path. On the other hand, if you want to be a writer and you don’t hate reading, you just don’t do it — well, now would be a good time to start.