Sunday, 25 July 2010

"Isn't writing a waste of time?"

I was asked this in the library yesterday. Now, outside the library and from someone who does not read, I might understand the question - just. Inside the library and from someone who held several books in their hand I found it difficult.
The implication of course was that "you have never had anything published so why are you bothering?" Well, correction I have been published - and why shouldn't I bother? Is writing any more or less a waste of time than watching television, going to the footy, or having a beer with mates? (These being the three favoured occupations of the individual who asked the question.)
He was quite serious. Why did I bother? He was standing there with books in hand and he asked why did I bother? Admittedly he only has the books because they are going on holiday and he wants something to read. It is the only time he reads books. His wife, whom I know quite well, reads more than he does. He is, quite simply, not terribly interested in books. I note that the books he has chosen are non-fiction. It is a proud boast on his part that he has not read a novel since he left school.
I know someone else who boasts he has not read a book, fiction or non-fiction, since he left school. He watches television in the evenings. If it is fine he tinkers with a motor bike and does outside house maintenance during the day. If it is not he wanders up to the shopping centre to get a cup of coffee and find someone to talk with - or to - and then comes back to more television. The only newspaper he reads is the weekly free local paper.
I know there are many people who do very little reading. That is their choice but - writing a waste of time? Is is it any more a waste of time than watching footy?
Both these people have strong views on all manner of topics. Their information about them is gleaned from the commercial news services. These may be adequate. I do not know. Perhaps it is also easier to hold opinions if you are less well informed. Issues may appear to be more black and white.
I rarely see the commercial news services and find them a little too superficial for my purposes. I watch the news portion of one television news service and the headlines of another. I have been known to watch portions of various European news services when there has been a major crisis - simply so that I know what people are being told. (It often differs dramatically - and even more so from what is actually happening on the ground at the centre of the crisis.) I also tend to do something else while I am watching. Sitting there doing nothing else makes me fidgety.
I also read two newspapers on a regular basis. I still do not consider myself to be as well informed as I would like although, like everyone else, I have opinions about certain things that matter to me.
I do not think that is why I write. I do not write to waste time either. I write because I must.
I look at all the books on the shelves in the library. I have managed to learn a great deal from these, from fiction as well non-fiction. I do not consider learning anything to be a waste of time.
So no, writing is not a waste of time. Someone might learn something - and that someone might be me.


Sheep Rustler said...

My daughter has just posted on Facebook that she cannot understand why people do not like reading. She immediately got a comment from a (reasonably intelligent) friend who commented that she found it almost impossible to concentrate on reading. Your blogpost seems an extension of the same question. Why does anyone do anything? I believe that everyone is driven to do something (OK, in many cases that seems to be watching sport on TV) and I am enough of an academic snob to believe that some of those pursuits are more 'important' than others. The more sources of knowledge there are in the world, the more informed we are, the better off we are in terms of tools for living and decision-making. Fortunately my family (extended and nuclear) cannot exist without a book in their hand or bag and none of them would think it weird that I stayed up till 1.30am last night reading! Mind you I also watch a lot of television, which is more my excuse to sit down and do something creative as well as I cannot 'just' watch television.

Sonia said...

Honestly, if someone said that to me I'd be pretty miffed. It's condescending, not to mention insensitive and plainly rude. Imagine telling someone that what they enjoyed doing was a waste of time! I certainly feel that way about TV/video games but I wouldn't go on and tell someone (esp. at a venue where those things abound). His comment simply leaves a bad taste in my bookwormish gob.

catdownunder said...

I have to confess my youngest sister does not read except for information about things like origami - but she does create things. The rest of us read constantly. My father still reads what many people would consider 'heavy' material. He will always have at least three items on the of them lightweight, one of them information, one of them "thinking" material. We do not all have the same tastes either - that just makes it more interesting.

catdownunder said...

He is a bit odd Sonia - but I really did wonder at that comment.
The library staff were more amused than I was!

Sarah said...

Of course it's a waste of time - just like breathing is :-)