Why You Should Read Other Stuff*

*Other Stuff
noun: anything that you don’t normally write

This is a post about why I think writers should read a lot of Other Stuff. I say this a lot and these are the responses I hear you already saying:
“I write YA paranormal romance, but I’ve read John Green’s stuff.”
“I write literary fiction but I read Harry Potter.”
“I wrote a how-to book, but I read Toni Morrison’s books.”

Okay, that’s great, but I mean, Other Stuff.

Read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War or The Story of Stuff. Read Schuyler’s Monster (note, this leads to the author/daughter’s blog, which is equally fascinating). Read The Magician’s Book (which may not be the book you’re thinking of). Read Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. I think every single writer, even if you write for yourself or you write fanfiction, should read The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

Here’s why.

A) You’re going to find stories inside of those books. If not stories, ways to deepen a character. Other ways of looking at your conflict. Other ways of looking at yourself. 

B) It WILL spark curiosity, and you never know where curiosity takes you. Look what happened to Alice.

C) Because it’s good for your brain. Seriously. 

I’m currently reading Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times by Eyal Press.

I come from a political science background and I studied conflicts, so this isn’t too much of a reach for me. Reading a book about Mitt Romney, or to be honest, any national politic issue, would be. But baby steps, right? 

This book changed my manuscript. It changed the way I looked at conflicts that I thought I knew a great deal about. I cannot even tell you how it’s changed the way I looked at PEOPLE. It’s incredible. It’s neuroscience plus psychology plus political theory plus sociology wrapped up into a bundle of breathtaking stories about incredibly ordinary people who do incredibly extraordinary things.

and isn’t that what most of us write? Characters who are relatively ordinary who do the extraordinary? Extraordinary doesn’t need to be saving a civilization from itself (though it can be), but we are writing the growth of someone and the resolution of a conflict that may be moral or physical or both. 

That’s exactly what Press writes about. The people who said no to unusually terrible events where MOST people followed the “new” rules and became complicit in acts with horrendous consequences. People who said no not because they’re rebels by nature, but because they were not rebels by nature.

Trust me when I say I’ve found stories to be written and I’m only halfway through.

Next on the list is War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. I’m excited to dig into this next.

What are you reading that is outside of the genre or area in which you write? Or what have you read outside of your genre that you’d like to share with others?

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