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watching tv better writer

How Watching TV Can Make You a Better Writer

What’s your favorite TV show to fold laundry to? You know, the one you can half pay attention to and still keep up with the plot?

Maybe you don’t have any shows you only half-watch because everything on TV right now is so good. Peak TV is a real thing.

Or maybe you think watching TV is a waste of time. It’s a “guilty pleasure” or a purely leisure activity.

I’ve seen writers who encourage others to trade TV watching for book reading, but those activities don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Yes, to be a really good writer, you have to be a really good reader. But, my friends, there is some excellent TV on right now. And if you want to be a better writer, you should be watching some of it.

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stephen king

What I Learned About Writing From Reading Stephen King

My senior year of high school, I left my English teacher’s Christmas Party with Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot in my hands and an exciting new strain of the flu setting up shop somewhere in my respiratory system.

As a game (and our winter break reading assignment), we each wrote the title of our favorite book on a scrap of paper and placed it in a bowl, and then we passed the bowl around. It was literary roulette. And now, thanks to a sick classmate, I was about to spend my winter break reading.

Throughout that feverish Christmas holiday, I walked my first lap in the multiverse that would eventually introduce me to thinnies, low men, twinners, ka and ka-tet, and the Twelve Guardians of the Beams—in other words, the wonky fantasy lexicon that has contributed to some readers calling King a master of literature, and others a peddler of low art.

King is a divisive author. Some hang on his every word, while others fall in league with a more critical crowd. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days in polite society are numbered,” King wrote in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

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reading James Joyce

What I Learned About Writing From Reading James Joyce

There are few writers who are touted by pretentious readers more than James Joyce. Maybe David Foster Wallace? Or William Shakespeare?

But when I first came across Joyce in my high school senior year English class while reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, I had no idea that reading this guy’s work was considered pretentious. I didn’t even know who he was, what else he had written, or why anyone studied him at all.

Heck, the very first line of that book is “Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo ….”

How could pretentious people get behind a guy who writes the word “moocow” or about a “baby tuckoo” (whatever that is)?

Isn’t that essentially gibberish?

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How Hemingway Taught Me to Be a Better Writer

Ernest Hemingway’s writing hasn’t always intrigued me.

In fact, when I was a high school student and had to read A Farewell to Arms for my AP Literature and Composition class, I happily employed the use of Sparknotes summaries at least twice for sections of the book I hadn’t read.

I mean, I tried to read the whole novel … OK, maybe I could have tried harder.

Taking a lot of literature and reading classes throughout my education, Hemingway had been substantially built up. To me, Hemingway felt like a micro-deity English teachers and students told me about: He was in the sky or somewhere very distant from me, wearing a white robe with a cigar in his mouth, watching life happen below him—but I couldn’t touch him.

I couldn’t even speak to him. I just pictured him in my mind and wondered what it would be like to be in his presence.

I know it sounds a little magnified, and I wish I could say it’s an exaggeration.

Then I finally had the chance to read one of his works. And I was crestfallen.

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