A Difficult Choice: Read or Write?

A Difficult Choice: Read Or Write?

The question I am going to try and answer in this article is: “What would I pick up, given a choice between reading and writing?” We all know that as soon as children are enrolled in kindergarten, the first thing they are taught is the alphabet. I remember picking up my younger sister from school after her first day in kindergarten some forty-five years back. At that time, I was a young lad of eleven and my sister was just four. My first question to her as soon as we stepped out of the school was: “What have you learned today?” She replied in that quaint accent little children speak in: “A for Upple”. After a fleeting moment of wondering what an “Upple” was, I realized she meant an “Apple”.

Coming to the question of making a serious choice between reading and writing, I will straight away say I would pick up reading. It is not that I do not enjoy writing. In fact, I have immensely loved penning every article, poem, short story, and all the other writeups I have put down on my blog over the last five years. I have also thoroughly enjoyed penning the few books I have written. I have generally found that writing is a very creative process and stimulates the grey cells of the brain which I enjoy thoroughly. But the main reason I still choose reading over writing is that, for the most part of my fifty-six years on this planet, I have been a voracious reader. I started writing only in 2017 and that too accidentally. So, I have a greater affinity for reading.

To substantiate my choice of reading, logically, and based on reason, I would like to ask my readers a question. Is it possible to choose writing over reading at a very fundamental level? The obvious answer is no. It is only after learning to read can we even begin to think of writing. It is only after going through the “A for Upple” phase as my sister did that we can think of writing anything. The point I am trying to drive home is that there is no way we can write anything before we learn to read.

We must learn to read the alphabet before we can form the words and create sentences. Trying to answer the question of which of the two is superior is a very difficult task. It is equivalent to answering the question: “Did the egg come first or the Hen?” Between reading and writing, I for one believe reading comes first and writing is a big subset of reading. Hence, I feel reading is a wee bit more important than writing.

I have several other logical reasons for choosing reading over writing. Of course, ever since I started writing, I have realized that for penning down anything at all, be it fiction, non-fiction, or any other form of writing, it definitely helps if a person is a habitual reader. Reading improves our ability to write. I have written five books in all. For each one of them, I had to do a good amount of research on the internet, and this meant I had to indulge in copious amounts of reading.

My upcoming full-length novel which belongs to the thriller fiction genre is set in the seventeenth century. As most of us are aware, during those times the chief mode of transport used to be horseback riding. So, the first thing I had to find out when I began writing the novel was, on an average how quickly can a horse run? And there were several other big and small things I had to find out through research. From this single point, you can fathom how important reading is. The entire plot of the novel would have gone for a big toss if I had not made sure of these facts. For penning books of any kind, we need a good vocabulary and fluency in the language we write the book in. This can be acquired only if we read a lot.

Apart from enabling a person to write, a good vocabulary has several other advantages. It helps us to become good conversationalists. It helps us to present our ideas clearly to others. Good communication skills are half the battle towards becoming good managers. Reading helps us in every walk of life and enriches our potential to live a fulfilling life and become successful human beings.

Finally, I would like to ask my readers to try and answer another question. How many of the people around you write a lot but read rarely? Most of us would find that almost all the good writers we know read a lot. This is because it is impossible to write anything at all without putting in at least a modicum amount of research and for that one must read. Let us now reverse the question and ask ourselves, how many of us read a lot but never write? We would be forced to admit that among all the literate people we know, writers are fewer than the readers. Hence writers are a subset of readers.

All these advantages place “reading” a shade above “writing” in the hierarchy of importance. Based on all the arguments, though I am smitten by the love of writing, I would still pick up reading over writing. God forbid that I ever have to make this choice. With that, I rest my case.

This post is a part of Blogchatter Blog Hop

14 Thoughts to “A Difficult Choice: Read or Write?”

  1. Well written, Jayakumar! And very cogently and reasonably argued.
    I think for me, reading and writing go hand in hand and feed off each other. I have observed that whenever I dont read, I dont write either and vice-versa. My writer’s block goes with my reader’s block! But I guess that’s just me. Everybody has their own preferences – and, I dare say, their idiosyncrasies!

    1. Jai

      Thank you so much, Sundar. I am often assailed by writer’s block and at such times I just allow it to run its course. Sometimes it takes a long while to wriggle out of it and at other times I am back in form in a day or two.

      1. Right, I hear you. I am going through the longest ever block right now! Not able to focus on anything for too long! Way back on my reading / reviewing too.

        1. Jai

          Hope you get out of it soon.

  2. Sudha

    Interesting debate, Jai. I am leaning towards reading too but as you have said, writers are a subset of habitual readers. Personally I like reading as it’s less effort and purely pleasurable ( that is, once you find a book that you enjoy). And often, reading moves you or teaches you something. Writing gives a lot too especially if the readers enjoy it too. So really two sides of a coin.
    ‘Upple’ sister

    1. Jai

      Yes, writing takes a certain amount of effort from a person as you say. Once you get going it is really great fun especially if one finds that a lot of people read and enjoy what you write. Reading on the other hand is easier if one can find something absorbing. Agree fully with what you say, my dear upple sister. Hope you get going with your blog soon.

  3. An interesting post, Jai, and one which actually makes a choice, unlike most of the other posts that have equated reading and writing, unable to make that choice. My own post included! Kudos on a good post!

    1. Jai

      Thank you, Deepti. Glad you enjoyed reading the post. Yes, it is very difficult to choose between reading and writing. I did the best I could.

  4. I’m with you on this – reader first and writer next.

    1. Jai

      Yes, if a person can’t read he would be no good as a writer.

  5. Suchita Agarwal

    A very interesting point of view you have showcased here Jai. I hadn’t thought that logically, reading preceded writing.

    1. Jai

      Thank you so much Suchita. Apart from that every literate person has to read. Perhaps they may not be readers of novels but they have to read something or the other. They don’t have a choice. But writing books in the conventional sense is a choice and not a necessity.

  6. One cannot be a writer without being a reader. How does one build the vocabulory to be able to write? Can’t agree more with you. Yet I don’t like this idea of pitting one against the other, After all, not all readers can write.

    1. Jai

      Agree fully. Thanks for visiting.

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