Reading and Writing as Creative Companions - Montreat College

Written by Emily Shirley

During my elementary school years, I experienced a great distaste for writing. Gradually, this distaste faded away, and was soon replaced with a love for the subject. Initially, I could not fathom how this transition occurred. In all honesty, I was so relieved that I did not much care. However, as the years passed and my love for writing grew stronger, I could not help wonder what caused this shift, and why the subject that formerly caused me great distress was now not only tolerable, but pleasurable.

And so I did what any 21st century high school student would do when faced with a question he or she cannot answer: I Googled it. Not surprisingly, this proved to be of little help. I felt like a mathematician who, after solving an equation, could not recall how he arrived at the answer. I then reasoned that the most logical process to employ would be that of retracing my education and attempting to identify the origin of my love for writing.

The answer, once I discovered it, seemed so obvious that, as they say, “if it had been a snake, it would’ve bitten me.” I concluded that my love for writing developed after my interest in literature led me to read great books. I read until the material I read captivated me to such a degree that I ardently desired to produce something of equivalent grandeur. Upon discovering quotes that moved me, I found that I desperately wanted to communicate to others why I found these quotes valuable. If I read a story and was disappointed with the ending, I would simply write another ending for it.

When we attempt to write without reading, we are like artists who do not observe the paintings of the greater artists that came before them, but still endeavor to put brush to canvas to produce portraits. In most areas of life, we generally acknowledge that the first step to learning is observance. A child, before attempting to walk, first observes his or her parents walking. The child then applies this same practice of observance to manners, speaking, and various daily habits. We perform best when we imitate those we observe, but if we do not observe and are left to ourselves, our product will be poor.

We also deprive ourselves of the opportunity to learn from others who have learned from their mistakes. We force ourselves to relive the blunders made by the very first writers. Writing, like every other art, has built on itself over the course of history, and much can be learned if we study the works of great authors. Reading great literature both inspires and instructs the modern writer.