I’ve heard it from various writers: they don’t read because they don’t want to copy (consciously or unconsciously) another person’s work. They want all their story ideas to be original. (Let’s not burst their bubble by talking about the belief that all plot ideas can be broken down into limited groups, whether one thinks there are seven, twenty, or thirty-six basic plots, but I digress.)
The one I remember most vividly was a young man who only came to our online writers group once, to regale us with how great his writing was, and how he never read books because he didn’t want to taint his writing. Several of us tried to give reasons why reading was important, but he wasn’t listening, so I just thanked him for his opinion and took the discussion away from the topic.
However, he’s far from the only one that has that notion. And excuse me, but: bollocks!
In any profession, you need to be familiar with the tools of that trade. Not to mention, learn from others in that profession, either through classes, apprenticeship, or other means. So why do some writers think they can learn, and polish, their writing in a vacuum?
Reading opens up the world, not only to ideas (and pardon me if I ask, but if one doesn’t want to read because they might inadvertently steal an idea, do they also not watch movies or TV shows or any other type of storytelling entertainment, like theatre?), but of how to write well (and how to write badly at times). How do you learn a skill properly, not to mention proficiently, if not through exposure to it?
Jon Del Arroz, an author friend, put it like this:
“Your mind draws upon what you read, and the more your read, the more tools you’ll have to be able to create.”