A Writer’s Diet

by jonnahzkennedy

The good writer has a varied diet.

In the past, I’ve talked about how a writer, if he ever wishes to become better, must not only read but also watch: television and and movies, as well as play: video games. Though, in recent times I’ve come across a conundrum. Recently, I wrote an essay and had to get it peer-reviewed, and I another; anyhow, when the time came to return the essays to other students, when I received mine I found it defiled by the most horrid kinds of marks: those which are only there to mark up the page and dirty it up, fill up the white space. There is a distinct difference between criticism and simply not being capable of being constructive in your criticism. For this matter, the criticism that was returned to me had denounced my work as little more then gibberish, having nothing to do with the prompt, when in fact it did; the only difference was that I referenced works outside of those that we had studied in class. In my defense, I had already cleared it with my teacher that I could use outside sources for this this essay, and with this being said, I cannot help but be angered by ignorance. While I did reference things that the reader of the paper had not read, that does not make for a mistake or an emergency on my part; there’s a works cited page for a reason. I believe that a reviewer, or anyone who analyses literature (be it a classic or something as simple as this, a class essay) should, before they review or critique the work, at least do some research. It is my belief that when we read good literature and good fiction, everything is symbolic for everything else, that there is an ulterior motive behind most things, and that sometimes it will require more than a surface level of reading; in the case of my essay, I used heavy figurative language in order to keep from sounding redundant, as many people chose the same prompt as I did, and for this matter, no one wants their essay to seem like little more than another stick in the mud.

Thinking on it now, I came to realize something: you can never hope to be a good writer, to be a better writer, or learn writing, if you do not have a proper diet. You also have to exercise, but that’s easy: just write every day for a good amount of time, but to be sure, I think I’ll cover that in a later post. Anyhow, if a write does not have a varied diet, then they cannot ever hope to get better. What I mean by this is that, a writer cannot simply read literature, he also has to understand why he reads the literature that he does, what makes literature interesting, the components of that literature and why it’s good for your writing. In addition to this, a writer is a renaissance man: knows a little bit of everything, and in order to achieve this diet, you cannot only read, but you must also watch good television and that television that you like; you have to watch deplorably bad movies, artsy movies, and totally superfluous movies that are made wholly for entertainment (like those of one of my favorites, Tarantino; I can’t help but watch one of his movies every other week or so because they stay in your mind long after you complete them); you also have to play games, any kind, so long as they have a goal; and a new thing, you also have to listen to music. This is where the diet becomes very hard to maintain. For those of us who enjoy one genre of music, it may be hard to get something out of another genre of music and feed from it, but if I can easily shift from Mozart to Kanye West to Lorde to DeadMa5, then I think that you should be able to as well. Music is an quintessential part of the human experience, and with this in mind, you cannot hope to write good characters, good stories, without listening to a wide variety of music to accompany your music; even as I type this, I’m listening to “Mercy”. But what is more, you have to understand that whatever diet you choose to keep your writing healthy does not define you as a person, you must always keep in the back of your mind that you’re doing everything in order to become a better writer: so while I would rather not let people know that I secretly enjoy listening to hip-hop music, I still listen to it not only because it sounds pretty dope (depending on who you’re listening to, but that’s all a matter of taste) but because there are some pretty heavy rhymes thrown down that could improve your usage of figurative language if you look past the vulgar lyrics in many songs.

Enlighten yourself not only on the subjects of your genre, but on the subjects of all those things outside your genre; don’t be ignorant, learn so that your work can be a better reflection and representation of not only your writing but yourself.