Is Fiction Good for Readers and Bad for Writers?

Category: Writing

I heard two interesting things about literature today. According to academic Keith Oatley, reading fiction is very good for people. It improves our social performance. The more we read, the better we are at interacting with other people. Reading is like a flight simulator for life.

Meanwhile Rick Gekoski was suggesting that writing is bad for you.

I fear it is for me. The creative process itself drives me to distraction, and that’s before you even factor in how the final product is received.

I’ve recently been riding the rollercoaster of praise and rejection that seems to be the lot of most writers.

I had a whole clutch of pieces rejected by a publication where I was quite confident of placing at least one. I took one of the stories and sent it immediately to another publication, which I had fewer hopes of getting into. I got an immediate reply. Before even reading it they were excited to have received it.

You’ll note there that I have judged myself better than the first publication, and not good enough for the second.

When that publication I was confident of making turned down all those pieces, I am ashamed to say I seethed at the publication, its editors, their families and all their heirs in perpetuity.

I fear if the rejection had been face to face I would have done them violence.

I wish I wasn’t like this. I wish I didn’t rely on others to put value to my work. I wish I could write something I thought was good and not worry one way or the other if not another soul ever saw it. But I am not like that. Few people are.

A lot of artists go through a cycle of supreme belief in what they are doing only to wake up the next day aghast they have allowed their future success and fulfillment to depend on this nonsense they have spewed out.

I read an interview with Louise Welsh in which she quoted someone else to the effect: many writers have huge egos and low self-esteem.

So true. If you are passing us by show us some love. A morsel of encouragement as we swoop past screaming on our rollercoaster.

Because you people owe us big time. Writing messes us up, but reading is good for you.

Not necessarily reading me. My ego isn’t that big.

Not today anyway.


George Anderson

George Anderson received a New Writers Award in 2008.