An Author Reads Selectively

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An author often starts his career as a reader. I recommend extensive reading to the young people who are about to begin their career as authors. An advanced course in grammar is exclusively for those who want to pursue their career as critics. A high dose of vocabulary enables one to use high-flown words in their compositions. They have all the potentials to make you a reformed author, but not necessarily a popular one. A composition rich in literary value is not the same as one with a high degree of penetration and popularity. In order to reach larger readers the last two qualities are essential. Your usage of words and grammatical wit must not spoil the simplicity.  Sometimes highly learned authors make this terrible mistake and thus create prose so abstract to the common readers that the purpose often remains unfulfilled.

A simplistic style thus is what we require. Like any other forms of art writing is also improved by imitation. From the very beginning of our study in literature we hone our skills by merely imitating great authors. This is where the reading comes into play. A successful author relies on extensive reading. Unlike the government clerk who relies solely on the newspaper for his daily doses of literature, an author must not limit himself in any particular genre of literature. It is said that if you want to become a writer avoid newspapers. This is so true. The newspapers have been well known for their over-simplistic manner. An author however, needs to be selective in the materials he chooses for reading. He knows fully well that he has given a finite and short life, so it will be a foolery to expect to read everything that has ever been written by mankind. The author knowing his limitations will only focus on the materials that will serve his purpose.

I was reading a few lectures by a renowned grammarian and author of all time. To my utter surprise, about 90% of these lectures comprised of sarcasm and onslaught on existing system language. The rest consisted of only some vague proposals of a few things that can be done to improve this system. I was terribly disappointed at the author’s approach. Why should we spend 90% of our time by reading about things that we already know? I was so bored with this hypercritical and abstract approach of the author that I started looking for passages that say something less depressing in order to cheer myself up. There is a need for being critical about a system, but isn’t the need for a conclusive solution is even greater than that? So my question is why should we waste our precious time in reading a composition, 90% of which you can compress into a few single lines? I didn’t take long to abandon the entire book. Clearly, the author and the lecturer didn’t fulfill my expectations. Reading such subject matters not only wastes your precious time but also spoils your mood. They potentially restrict your productivity as an author.

There is first, a need to identify your purpose even before reading the preface. Most of us start our daily reading without having any definite purpose in our mind. A good author will here act more like a scavenger who looks for useful things in the rubbish. He always gets what he wants because he knows exactly what he wants. Identifying useful books is the most interesting part of the process. The author reads reviews, the preface of the book and even skims through the headlines to see whether the book is of any worth to him. While doing this the author needs to be extremely cautious. This is a layered investigation process. In the outermost layer of inspection, he only reads the preface, the reviews and the index. While in the next layer the author goes through all the headlines, texts in bold, and everything that is conspicuous within its pages. This often gives the him sufficient information about the book. If it doesn’t seem interesting enough the author may switch to the next book. But if even a small part says something useful the author should consider progressing himself to the next level of inspection.

As soon as the author is convinced of the usability of the the subject matter, he should waste no time and should immediately start reading it. Once a decision has been made to read the entire book, he should stick to it, even if some parts of the book seem uninteresting. Selective reading despite its professional and innovative sound is quite familiar among today’s authors. There are many examples of selective reading practiced at the elementary level. Whenever we search for some information on the internet, we are usually bombarded with innumerous links, each one of them leading us to different relevant sites. The search engine arranges the sites according to keyword density, tags and other factors. These search results are hardly arranged according to individual needs. It will take years to read everything that is given there. So we are forced to make some decisions on what to include and what to eliminate. During this process we also discard pages that are repetitive there by minimizing the duplication of effort. The same process when applied to selecting a certain book for reading is technically called the selective reading. It’s basically as simple as the process of addition and subtraction.  

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