Production vs. Consumption in the Verbal World

An undoubtedly dull question, but very basically, I’ve been wondering today why, during emotionally (or otherwise) trying times, writing goes out the window for me, while my voracious reading habits remain largely unchanged. Writing takes up a lot of energy, it’s true– but then, so does reading, at least if you’re paying any meaningful amount of attention to the words passing before your eyes. One would think that the former would allow for some form of release or low-grade therapy, making it possible to bitch and complain and rain down curses without causing anyone any harm, clearing out some heart-based muddle to make space for a bit of calm.


Russians Reading and Writing, by Utagawa Yoshikazu, via Wikimedia Commons.

And yet, I seem to prefer stuffing myself full of additional, extraneous thoughts and stories to blowing off steam through scribbling. We could allege that planting my nose in a book is a convenient mode of escape from and/or avoidance of my own troubles, a charge that’s probably at least partially true. On the other hand, I so often find in others’ writing helpful elucidations of or things to consider about my own situation that I’m hesitant to chalk up my easy relationship with reading to an obvious dodge away from self-confrontation.

After two paragraphs, then, we– or I, at least– have learned little to nothing about a situation that may boil down to simple, inexplicable preference for one activity over another, even though the two are so ridiculously closely linked. But, given a continual onslaught of stress over the past couple of weeks, that perfunctory go at an investigation is about all I can handle right now, and so I’ll sink into someone else’s construction of quandaries, adventures, and questions before falling fast asleep wherever my tired head lands.



  1. birds fly

    It’s an interesting phenomenon. Thomas Bernhard wrote in his memoir: “When I am writing I read nothing, and when I am reading I write nothing. For long periods I read and write nothing, finding both equally repugnant.”

    I hope you find your way back to writing soon.


    • Special K

      Many thanks. Even if it’s only scribbling, I miss putting thoughts on paper (or the screen) when it just won’t come. (And coincidentally, I’ve been wanting to get in some good Bernhard time lately. Maybe it’s a sign.)


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