Inevitably, as we develop as writers, we encounter a period of our career when we are struggling to find our voice. Whether we are just starting out or whether we are experienced authors seeking to break from our traditional publishers, it is likely that at some point we will find ourselves frustrated by our inability to produce work that resonates with readers, or indeed by our frustration at not knowing how to go about improving our craft.
If you find yourself in this position, where creativity is blocked and you are seeking new ways to interact with literature, then this article is for you. We will explore how you can overcome this creative block and whether self-education is the answer.
The Benefits Of Reading And Studying Literature
An abundance of literature is immensely beneficial to the creative writing process. Whether you are a published author seeking to break from your publisher, an aspiring author looking to emulate your favourite authors, or a person simply seeking entertainment, the opportunity to engage with great works of prose and poetry is enough reason to read. Moreover, as we shall discuss, studying literature is an excellent opportunity to expose yourself to different styles and techniques, and in turn, this will benefit your creative writing process.
In her article ‘How To Write The Perfect Novel’, Emma McLeman notes that “a literature major is a great way to prepare for professional life as a writer”. In accordance with this, various universities offer Creative Writing degrees, which examine professional practices in great detail while also teaching you to craft an entertaining story. As a literature major, you will not only learn the craft of writing, but you will develop a greater understanding of how literature works and the contexts in which it was created.
Style And Technique
A benefit of reading great works of literature is that you will develop a greater understanding of style and technique. The more you read, the greater your repertoire of literary techniques will become. This is an important consideration for any writer, whether you decide to pursue Creative Writing as a degree or whether you decide to go the indie route. Style and technique are paramount, especially if you decide to write in a traditionally published manner. Your decision to go traditionally will not only provide you with the much needed platform to showcase your work, but it will also introduce you to a whole host of stylistic choices that you can draw from as you develop your creative voice.
A Portfolio Of Work
Regardless of whether you plan on publishing your work professionally or whether you intend to go the indie route to establish yourself as a writer, the opportunity to write and develop your portfolio is enough reason to read. Moreover, as we have established, style and technique are paramount, and it is beneficial to develop a greater understanding of how a stylistic choice can affect your creative writing process. To that end, having a portfolio of your work is essential. Whether you exhibit your work in literature or in other forms of creative expression (painting, photography, or film), having a portfolio will establish you as an author with established style and voice.
Deep Dives Into Genres
As we have established above, reading literature is an excellent way to develop your style and technique. If you decide to write in a genre that you do not particularly enjoy, then it is beneficial to re-read literature that fits into this category. In doing so, you will not only develop a greater understanding of genre, but you will also be able to engage with the works of great authors, providing you with enough inspiration to create something new and exciting. Moreover, establishing a genre can help you to market yourself as an author, whether you decide to write in a traditional or indie manner.
A final important point to consider is the necessity of knowledge. If you are seeking to establish yourself as a creative writer, then it is essential to have knowledge of literature. Even if you decide to pursue Creative Writing as a degree, you must still remember that you will be expected to teach yourself the craft of writing. Luckily for you, Creative Writing is a broad field, covering all areas from short stories to novels, so you can specialise in a particular area while still garnering knowledge from a variety of sources.
In closing, we would like to reiterate that reading literature is a great way to establish yourself as a creative writer and that studying literature in university offers numerous benefits. Naturally, if you feel that you can offer entertainment or insight into style and technique, then your aim is achieved, and you can happily enjoy the great books that lie behind you.