I have a confession to make: I don’t read education books. I write them, obviously, but I very, very rarely read them, unless I’ve been asked to write a review. This is not meant to be some kind of anti-intellectual comment, it is just a statement of fact. I read an awful lot of books – sometimes four or five a week – but I prefer reading fiction, with crime fiction being by far my favourite thing to read in the whole entire world. My non-reading of education books is partly to do with it being the day job. I don’t want to spend my evenings reading someone else doing what I’ve been doing all day. But my non-reading is a bit more calculated than that. As a writer, you have to be really careful not to infuse your writing with other people’s ideas. If you spend too much time in the company of other writers, you run the risk of mixing up their ideas with your own. You might end up diluting your own ideas, until they are so weak that they taste like badly watered down squash.
Occasionally someone will say to me, “Oh, your blog is just what Author X says in Book Y!” At that point, I think damn, someone else wrote about my idea first. But I didn’t write about the idea because I read Book Y; I wrote about it because I figured it out for myself. When we read and then quote other people’s books, it can become a bit like a comfort blanket. We use references to other people’s work to give our own more apparent merit, by saying how their idea supports our argument. I’m sure the ‘essay writing’ style of blogging has its merits, and if the number of essay style blogs is anything to go by, it clearly has its admirers. But if I’m honest I find it very dry and more than a little bit boring to read. My own blog-writing theory is this: if I can’t say what I wanted to say on a single screen of your computer, and without quoting what tons of other people said, then maybe I didn’t try hard enough to be concise. And maybe I didn’t think for myself first.