Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, writer, and possessed by cats

Readin’ and Writin’

Five or so years ago, I wandered into an online discussion where a wannabe writer was doing a perfect imitation of a stubborn two-year-old. You could see this person stomping his foot, arms folded across his chest and all but threatening to hold his breath until he turned blue. The reason wasn’t because he’d gotten a bad critique. It was much more basic. This wanna be was pitching a fit because he didn’t understand why others were telling him it was important to read.

Yes, a writer didn’t understand why it was important to read.

But it gets better. This writer, and I use that term loosely, didn’t understand that it’s important to read the genre you want to write. Now, on the surface, the excuse might seem reasonable. According to this person, they were afraid their “unique” voice would be contaminated by anything they might read. We tried explaining that the voice wouldn’t be, not if it was solidly entrenched in the writer’s mind. We explained how a writer needed to know what current trends and tropes were. There was more and none of it got through to this wanna be. He kicked and he stomped and he pitched a fit before gathering up his toys and going home, figuratively. What he did was leave the group and not return.

It isn’t the only time I’ve encountered writers who truly believe they don’t need to read in the genre they write. When asked, some give similar answers to the writer above. Others will say they don’t like reading that genre. That last answer always throws me. How can you write a genre you don’t like to read? I guess some folks can but not me.

And I do read. Mind you, I don’t always read the genre I’m writing WHILE I’m writing. That’s one of the nice things about writing in several different genres. While writing sf, I can read mysteries. While writing mysteries, I can read sf. You get the picture.

It is rare to find me without reading material close at hand. I love e-books for that reason. I can read on my phone, my tablet or my laptop. Six or eight months ago, I bought myself a Kindle Paperwhite E-reader. I had always loved my e-ink Kindles but they had the drawback of not being lit. It meant I had to have an external light source at night or in ill-lit areas. Friends had suggested a Paperwhite and, when it went on sale, I splurged.

I’ll be honest, I loved the lit screen. What I had problems with was the touchscreen. I missed the page turn buttons and it wasn’t always easy to get the control bar to come up. It was me, not the device. But it kept me from using it as much as I would have. So I continued reading more often than not on my tablet — and getting the accompanying eye strain. (More on that later)

Earlier this week, I was wandering through Amazon and saw they had the Kindle Oasis E-reader with Leather Charging Cover for sale where you could pay it out over several months. I hesitated. The price of the Oasis was still much more than I wanted to pay for a dedicated e-book reader. I could buy a cheap Chromebook or a decent tablet for it. But, the pull to buy it was there. It was the reader in me. I wanted to read a book — and, yes, and e-book is a book — without the distractions offered by tablets or laptops or phones.

So I did some research and talked to some friends who already owned the Oasis. Finally, after a couple of days of back-and-forth, I ordered it. I knew I could return it if I decided I didn’t like it. So I waited for the delivery to arrive, wondering what I had gotten myself into.

All I can say is, “WOW!”

Even though the screen is the same size as the Paperwhite — or near enough to make no difference — the actual footprint of the Oasis is much smaller. With the leather charging case, included in the cost of the reader, it feels more like a “real” reading experience. Better yet, the case has navigation buttons. Actual buttons.

But there is more to set it apart from the Paperwhite. Like its predecessor, the Oasis has screen lights. What makes it better is the number of lights on the Oasis number more than on the Paperwhite. Coupled with the glass screen instead of paper, it helps make the text appear sharper. The overall lighting of the entire screen seems to be more uniform than on the Paperwhite. Better yet, because of the smaller size and weight, I find myself taking the Oasis with me everywhere and I am reading more than I had been.

And that brings me back to my previous comment about eye strain. Like most writers — heck, like most anyone who works in an office — my days is spent looking at computer screens. A couple of years ago, my mother’s retinologist talked with her about how the flickering of screens (admittedly much better now than in years past) as well as reflection off of a computer or tablet screen, is a prime cause of eye strain and headaches. He preferred she read using an e-ink display. He preferred e-ink over print as well.

While working on my last book, I realized something. I wasn’t reading as much after I finished writing for the day. It didn’t take long to realize a big part of it was eye strain. After hours at the laptop, my eyes hurt and my head hurt. Changing the lighting or where I worked helped a little but the source of the problem was still there — the screen.

Since getting the Oasis, I’m back to reading. So I’m keeping the Oasis and going to give the Paperwhite to my mother. And I highly recommend for anyone who finds themselves not wanting to read e-books after a long day at the computer to consider one of the e-ink readers. Amazon has a line of them as do other merchants. Besides not having the reflection problem tablets have they have the added benefit of no distraction. No email. No games. No internet. You simply get lost in your book.

What a wonderful way to spend a few hours.

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2 Comments

  1. Before reading the rest of the post, this jumped out at me:

    According to this person, they were afraid their “unique” voice would be contaminated by anything they might read. We tried explaining that the voice wouldn’t be, not if it was solidly entrenched in the writer’s mind.

    I am reminded of this section of Neil Gaiman’s rather famous commencement speech:

    “The urge, starting out, is to copy. And that’s not a bad thing. Most of us only find our own voices after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people. But the one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”

    Sounding like other people is an okay step along the way toward developing your unique voice. Exposure to a lot of other voices and trying them out, is what provides the ingredients for creating your own.

  2. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    “Don’t read what you’re going to write?”

    Well, that explains some of the stupid ideas that pop up in slush piles. 👿

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