Think for Yourself

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.

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6 Responses to Think for Yourself

  1. Adebiyi A.A •﹏• لقمن says:

    I agree with you. It’s true but we might reference others people work in a special kind of way.


  2. jillberry102 says:

    Hmmmm… Not sure about this, Sue! I’ve learnt so much from what I’ve read, and it’s helped me to consolidate or challenge my thinking.

    When I was a head I just used to read one educational book in each long holiday – like you, I love reading fiction and often needed to unwind when I was not working, rather than reading more about education. But now I’ve time I read quite a bit of education stuff – mainly blogs but also books. Although I taught for 30 years and was a head for ten, I realise how much more I still have to learn!

    I do like concise blog posts, though – which is one of the reasons why I like your posts so much, and @staffrm too.


    • suecowley says:

      I wonder if it’s different if you prefer to write education books, rather than read them? I read lots of reports and other factual documents, and I skim some books, but I’m mainly looking for information rather than opinions or theories. (I like to make up my own.) I don’t know if that makes sense but I can’t seem to do it any other way 😉


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