Since embarking on this circuitous and bumpy writing path, I’ve tried to read quality writing. Doubled down on Hemingway, read the Russian Masters (Dostoevsky, Gogol, Nabokov), Morrison, etc.
Books aren’t the only writing I consume. I’ve watched shows I’ve heard Koppelman call out as examples of good writing, like The Crown. I found it hard to care about English Royalty and stopped after two seasons. But I gave it another chance on Koppelman’s recommendation. The writing, acting and dialogue are top-notch. Makes it hard to watch lesser shows on Netflix that feel like they put them together over a weekend. I still don’t care about the Royals, but I care about the characters in The Crown.
Similar story with The Bear. It was a critical darling when released. I watched the first two episodes… and couldn’t watch anymore. They did such a great job of creating a tense kitchen that I felt like I was on edge… and I had to stop watching. I don’t want to feel tense when watching at night before bed. Similar to the Crown, I recently gave it another chance and watched two episodes on a weekend afternoon. And got hooked. They do family conversation (talking over each other) better than anyone else. I just watched the infamous episode 6 of season 2, which was referred to as one of the best single episodes of TV ever.
If watching good writing (defined by realistic, relatable characters, interesting story arcs, thinking about the show when it’s over) immerses one in helpful content, does bad writing do the opposite? Do my skills get worse each time I watch a Jason Statham movie (I hope not, JS movies are a guilty pleasure).
Same with bad writing. And I don’t mean this website, but the cavalcade of sites geared toward SEO, and the rambling, say-nothing sentences and taking five paragraphs to say what only requires one. Does reading such low-quality stuff rot the brain? Probably not, although unconsciously it may give an excuse to write worser sentences (:))
Is it possible to only read and watch quality stuff? Not practically, but reducing the consumption of low-quality free writing online could be helpful. I’ve made this change already with my reading of books; the Russian masters, best short stories of the century, etc. And when I pick up a non-capital-“L”-literature book, the difference jumps off the page.