Put down the phone: To write well, read more

I am in the room where I teach. You stop at the door and knock.

“Come in,” I say. You stride in and sit in the chair next to me. The phone in your hand chirps. You glance at it, then at me. I frown. You sigh and put your phone in your pack.

“What can I do for you?” I ask.

“I want to write well,” you say. “How do I do that?”

I nod. “How much do you read?” I ask.

“Not a lot,” you say.

“Why do you not read more?” I say.

“I do not like to read,” you say. “It takes too much time.”

“That is too bad,” I say.

“Why?” you ask.

“To write well,” I say, “you need more words to choose from. When you read, you find words you do not know but need to know.”

“Why do I need more words?” you ask.

“If you have more words in your mind,” I say, “then the voice in your head will be clear to those who read the words you choose to show your voice. That is a great boon to those who write and those who read.”

“So I should read more?” you ask.

“Yes,” I say. “Yes. Learn a new word each day. Or each hour, if you can.”

“What should I read?” you ask.

“Find those who write well,” I say. “Then ask them what they read.”

“If I read more, will it be worth it?” you ask. “I like to write, not read.”

“No one who writes well likes to write,” I say. “It is a hard search for just the right word, then the search for the next right word. And the next. That is why you need more words to choose from. To write well is pain; it is blood sweat; it is to pluck just the right word from all the words in your mind, time after time after time.”

“But,” I say as I smile, “after you write — if well — it is joy with no end.”

You rise from the chair. As you do, you reach in your pack and grasp your phone.

“Thank you,” you say. I nod, but I sense you are not sure what I have said to you has worth.

As you leave, you punch at your phone with your thumbs.

I watch you text as you leave. I doubt you will read more.

I sigh, and turn back to my book.

h/t to Stephen King: “Read a lot. Write a lot.”

1 reply »

  1. This what is happening to our culture. Teens through there college years, know how to text -abbreviated words with no punctuation, or proper spelling necessary.
    Children do read, as a librarian, I know this. Gradually, once they get a Blackberry, it all goes to hell.
    College admissions recognize this, as do teachers.