Occasionally, I have students who want to be rock stars. They have started a band, and they are spending their weekends and off hours writing songs and practicing. Without fail, these kids know everything there is to know about new music. They are listening all the time—they can discourse on Bob Dylan as easily as they can talk about the new e.p. from a new band from Little Rock, Arkansas, or wherever, and they have a whole hard drive full of demos from obscure artists that they have downloaded from the internet.
I wish that my students who want to be fiction writers were similarly engaged. But when I ask them what they’ve read recently, they frequently only manage to cough up the most obvious, high profile examples. What if my rock star students had only heard of… um… The Beatles? We listened to them in my Rock Music Class in high school. And… And Justin Timberlake? And, uh, yeah, there’s that one band, My Chemical Romance, I heard one of their songs once.
How awful would that be?
Young writers, if you want to be rock stars, you have to read.