I think it’s fair to assume that anyone who loves writing also loves reading. I don’t think this love necessarily goes both ways though. I know plenty of people who enjoy reading, but have neither the time nor inclination nor desire to write a book.
There are common themes I love about both reading and writing, but there is one very important difference I experience when I write a book.
What I love about both…
We can go anywhere
The ability of books, either written or read, to take us to a new place and / or time is one of the magical aspects of the craft. Books, I think, have an ability to suck us into another world far more subversively than any other kind of storytelling such as a play or a movie.
We can be anyone
In real life we can rarely create a new persona, not without the aid of a life-changing event, and while some life-changing events can be a blessing, others are not so kind. Either way, we rarely get to experience more than a few of these, and when they do arrive there can be a great deal of painful adjustment before we arrive at our new state of being. The same with careers, few of us take an about swing, and if we do, it doesn’t happen very often during our life.
Books allow us to be or see through the eyes of someone else for a time. Occasionally, this can be uncomfortable, like you are wearing an itchy coat, if you are reading or writing about a person whose character you really don’t like. But it can also be a lot of fun to imagine the life of another person that is nothing like the real you.
We can do anything
Not all of us have the mental acumen to be the next super sleuth and solve a crime, even if we really wanted to, but when we read or write a book, we can. Or perhaps you could trek across the Himalayas, but you have three kids under the age of five and it’s really not that practical right now. This mystical activity you know you are missing either the mental, physical, or practical ability to do, is waiting for us just inside the pages of a book.
So what is the one defining thing that separates reading from writing?
For me, writing is all about being the master of my own ship. I make the decisions, I get to call the shots, to chose what happens next and to who. The funny thing about writing is that it might at the surface feel contrived or constrained, and yet it is often not.
It might also be supposed that there are no surprises, and yet I find there are many surprises along the way.