About reading

“Always be reading something…Even when we’re not physically reading. How else will we read the world? Think of it as a constant.”

From Ali Smith’s Autumn

In the novel Daniel gives this advice to his young friend, Elisabeth as an important way of understanding the world. It seems to me essential advice for anyone who sees themselves as a writer. You have to use all your senses, be on the look out and ready. Without being obsessive (well not completely). Read and think about what you’re reading. Don’t switch off your critical sense. Analyse what the writer is doing. How she achieves the effect on the reader. Listen to the chat on the bus, or the one-sided phone conversation. Examine how you really feel when you’re: with family, on your own, in a thunderstorm, crossing a bridge, standing in a queue.

I remember my friend who worked for the Inland Revenue being asked what he would do if he overheard a conversation in the pub about tax avoidance. His answer: ‘I work for the Queen.’  Just what you need to do as a writer: keep making sense of the world. Or how can you write with any authenticity?

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