Sarah Lingley is a copy editor and writer I got to know through networking. We professionals have to stick together! Today I have Sarah as my guest to tell you about the relationship between reading and writing, how you can become a better writer, and how, ultimately, you can save money when hiring one of us!
Take it away, Sarah:
One of my earliest childhood memories is packing into the family van each Friday afternoon and heading to the library. While my friends and peers were keeping up with the latest shows on television or playing their newest Gameboys, I was reading. On the couch, in my tree fort, under my bed. When I was very young, it was picture books and easy readers, and then as I got older it was mini-series and novels, academic books and articles. On rainy days, my older brother and I would bring a stack of encyclopedias to the closet, wrap in a blanket, and read our way through each and every page.
I wrote my first short story, per the prompting of my author-grandma, around the age of eight. By the time I entered high school, I was a slave to words and sentences and paragraphs. Spelling them, memorizing them, manipulating them, and arranging them.
I began writing and submitting short stories and essays to contests and publications, and later researched, wrote, and self-published my great-grandparents’ immigrant biography. In college, I studied Communication, with a concentration in editing and proofreading; I had no future at all if it did not center on words.
Today, years after those Friday afternoon visits to the library, I sit in my home office and dedicate many hours a week to reading words, correcting words, adjusting words. Generally speaking, my job as an editor is based on the writing of others; specifically speaking, my job as an editor is based on the level of exposure my clients have had and do have to reading.
Within the first paragraph of a fresh document, it is usually very clear to me how well read my client is, what their experience is with writing (their own and that of others), and the depth of their knowledge of the English language.
Of the hundreds upon hundreds of documents I have edited over the years, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find writers who are also readers. I blame society.
It is more than just the way I was raised that makes me want to bash the social trends that have thrown good books out the window.
It is the simple truth that, more often than not in this day and age, individuals just don’t know the true value of a good read. These factors result in disadvantages on multiple levels: imaginations are limited, social development is stunted, and individual achievements are restricted.
Society has replaced reading with mindless television shows, time-wasting video games, and unproductive media venues, all of which cause the mind to wane and become lax. While reading and other media are all forms of entertainment, the argument now lies between profitless distraction and productive distraction.
We all need something to take our minds off the weight of the world; choosing an activity that stretches, prods, and stimulates the intellect, rather than one which weakens and deadens it, creates a higher production of invention, contemplation, and insight.
Watching a meaningless show about vampires or throwing cartoon birds at objects on your phone does nothing for your imagination, while engrossing yourself alongside complex characters within a thick plotted novel forces you to envision, hope, and consider. Imagine how different our society would be if people actually knew how to dream and think rather than plug their ears and zone out in a cyber-reality!
With weak psyches, writing becomes much more difficult a task to complete and thought-provoking material is harder to generate. This, in turn, makes my job as an editor more time-consuming, and costs the client more money.
I have heard many people say that they read too many boring documents at work all day to be able to do anything other than switch on the television when they get home; their brain is fried and they want to zone out. While I completely understand, and can relate to an extent, reading has been misunderstood if it is viewed as work.
Yes, pleasure reading uses the brain more than checking out in front of the big screen does, yet if more people could train themselves to use pleasure reading as a means to relieve stress and relax, we’d all be better off.
Pleasure reading is meant to be just that, pleasure. While academic or work-related reading is draining and un-fun for some, reading in and of itself doesn’t have to be. I have heard some people say that books are not nearly as interesting as television shows.
Yet if one walks into a bookstore they will find almost every subject matter available to mankind. Drama, check. Horror, check. Thriller, check. Self-help, check. Okay, yes, you might not find Judge Judy, specifically, but you will find biographical or fictional books about legal drama and catastrophe, or NCIS-style cop dramas, or National Geographic documentaries.
There is no benefit to anyone who wishes to sit back and pass the buck on to society. Yes, society has pounded it into our minds that reading is boring work, but society is wrong. As a general rule, it seems society doesn’t want us to think, doesn’t want us to better ourselves, and doesn’t want us to benefit from expanding and growing our minds.
So it’s up to you, the internet surfer, to start reading. It’s up to you, the reader, to learn from what you read and to let those lessons mold you into a talented and gifted writer.
After all, as a good writer, you’ll pay less money out of pocket to editors like me, and, to boot, be able to pat yourself on the back for authoring a piece of well-written literature. Go expand your mind, and take pride in that as you start tapping away on the keyboard.
Sarah Williams is the owner and editor in chief of Lingley Editing Services, LLC. She holds a BA in Communication from Salem College. When not editing and proofreading, she enjoys the outdoors with her husband in hot and sunny Arizona. Visit her website, Facebook, and LinkedIn page to read more.