Is Reading a Creative Effort?

5 May

Is reading a creative effort?  I’ve been pondering this question lately.  Actually, since I read the post Would You Rather Be Productive or Creative? on   It’s a thought provoking post, examining how one may come at the expense of the other.   I do often feel like these two things are in conflict, if by ‘productive’ we mean revenue producing.  

In a way, reading seems to be neither.   When I read, I am neither producing nor creating.  Interestingly, when juxtaposed with reading, the two seem more alike than different.  But I digress. 

The issue at hand is – am I being creative when I read?  Or is it another form of diversion?   Something else to do (albeit enjoyable) which keeps me from writing, or working, or paying bills?   Perhaps a form of self-soothing, enlisted in place of dealing with stressful, real-life issues?   It may be all these things, but I still feel it is a creative effort.   Why?   I suppose because it engages my imagination.  I picture the characters.  I picture the scenes.  And then, often I start picturing my own scenes, creating scenarios in my head for my own characters. 

I am delighted to find I’m not alone.  Charly Lester has again written a post on her blog, The Elementary Circle, that totally resonated with me: Give Yourself An Inspirational Day.  In it, she also mentions that when she is looking for inspiration, reading is on the top of her list.  

Although creative works do not happen without the ‘work’ part, it is also true that they do not happen without the inspiration.   Like the seed growing underground before finally sprouting and showing itself to the world, these thoughts, emotions, visions must germinate and begin drawing nourishment from the soil around them.  Reading is my soil.

Spending time in solitude with your artist child is essential to self-nurturing. ~Julia Cameron, the Artist’s Way

5 Responses to “Is Reading a Creative Effort?”

  1. atomsofthought May 5, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

    Yes, I believe that reading is absolutely a creative act. When we read, we engage in a dialogue with an author who may be alive or dead. We hear her voice and inhabit the world she has created for us. Inhabiting another person’s world, and allowing our own notions of reality to become entangled with those of the author, qualifies as a creative act. Miguel de Unamuno and Jorge Luis Borges both viewed reading as an act of mutual creation between author and reader.

    One of my favorite stories that fleshes out this idea is “Pierre Menard, Author of The Quijote,” written by Borges, in which a man of the 20th century sets out to write Don Quijote from scratch, reproducing the original yet from a 20th century perspective. His finished product is actually an exact copy of the original novel, but the book becomes something entirely new when viewed through the lens of the 20th century, pretending that it has been written for the first time. This is a difficult story to summarize in a comment, but the point is that each book is new and different for each reader and each age.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

    • pursuingthemuse May 5, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

      I love the idea of being engaged in a dialogue with the author, just by reading. Thanks so much for your thoughts and for engaging in a dialogue with me! Btw, I checked out your blog and really enjoyed it. I share your love of Austin – lived there in the late 80’s and it is my favorite place on earth.

  2. C.B. Wentworth May 6, 2011 at 12:14 am #

    I think reading sparks creativity. As a writer, I’m always curious how someone else constructs stories, characters, and metaphors, etc. It gives me the impetus to try the strategy out for myself and see what happens. If it’s a particularly innovative writer, the spirit of being different inspires me to have the courage to break a few rules and do something completely unexpected.

    Perhaps, it doesn’t feel like a creative effort because reading tends to be a relaxing, passive action, but I always want to write after spending some time with someone else’s words. You can’t ask for more motivation than that!

    • pursuingthemuse May 6, 2011 at 8:17 am #

      Yes, I think it’s because it is passive that I feel guilty sometimes or like I can only spend time reading when I’m not “busy”. Perhaps I was looking for a rationale (and I think I’ve found it). I need to do a better job of deconstructing what I’m reading, as you’ve described.

  3. ticklingthemuse May 6, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    You know, I totally agree with this post and was actually thinking of posting a similar one. I find that my creativity and inspiration comes from reading – look at what inspired my latest novel!!

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