The process of reading–taking in words, images, emotions–is related to writing, except the words, images, and emotions flow in the opposite direction.
While you’re reading, you’re thinking critically, analyzing plot or theme, evaluating a character’s developments, measuring the success or failure of the story based on how deeply the story and characters move you. And you’re using your imagination to experience the character’s struggle, basing your assessment of that struggle on how you might act in similar circumstances.
While you’re writing, however, you start from scratch, without words, without anything. Open a notebook and you find a blank page. You may have images, scenes, characters in your head, but you have to produce the words to move them from your imagination to the page so your reader can see and feel the same things that you see and feel.
Whether you are reading or writing, you dive into a character’s heart. To do this as a reader, you have to know the internal workings of your own heart. To do it as a writer, you need to know not only the workings of your own heart but the inner workings of your character’s heart, as well.
As readers, we go into the depths of a character’s heart led there by the author, who holds our hand and guides us as we make our descent.
As writers, though, we go down into a character’s heart alone, gauging our progress and location by our own internal GPS system, trusting our instincts and our knowledge of ourselves to get back to the surface.
Writing isn’t so much critical thinking, which involves looking at a story from the outside in, but creative thinking, which requires us to find a story from the inside out.
It’s like breathing: reading, inhale; writing, exhale. One breath, one word, at a time.
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