Essay II: Reading

Writing is a habit that comes with reading. If you want to write, you probably love books. But books can be intimidating. Sometimes it’s more fun to read than to write.

Reading, says Robert Bringhurst, means paying attention to what is in front of you and trying to make sense of it. The birds and the bees and the fish do it. For humans paying attention to what is in front of them, reading has to be learned. It’s a discipline. We are all creatures of habit, often out of laziness, boredom, and fear. Reading in this sense means a willingness to notice what is different and to try to make sense of it.

Spiritual teachers often suggest to their students that they should find a place where they can sit at peace. This instruction is usually followed by a second instruction: to listen. To what?

The habits of observation that contribute to the basic skill set of the writer are those of reading in Bringhurst’s sense. Watching and listening to what is in front of you. Like all the flora and fauna, we live in niches. Good writing starts with being an observant denizen of your niche.

If all goes well, your niche becomes your community.

Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Cranston RI and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. He can be reached at D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at and other sites.

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