UWT 28 – Read Something Different

As a writer I’ve always heard “Read outside your genre”. That’s all well and good, but think about this. There’s writing everywhere. Someone got paid to write it, but how many people bother to take the time to read it? I’m not talking about things you see every day like billboards or signs, or simple things like that. I’m talking about things you see in your own home.

Go to your cupboard and take a look at what you’ve got in there. Boxes, cans, bags. Everything has writing on it in there. Grab something and read it. What does it say on that cereal box? On that can of soup? On that package of noodles.

Sure, we’ve all been to the store, bought something and taken it home and cooked it. I’ve bought Campbell’s soup for years. I don’t think I ever read the directions because my mom showed me how to make the soup. Sometimes it you look at the label, there’s a recipe on the inside. No, really. I never knew that until I actually picked up the soup can and read the entire thing. There is so much writing out there that I never even looked at before.

Take a shampoo bottle for example. If you forget reading material when you’re sitting on your favorite seat (okay, maybe it’s just my favorite seat) and you need something to read, check out what your shampoo says. Sure, we’ve all done shampoo and conditioner before. Lather, rinse, repeat as needed. But take a moment to actually read what else is on there. Sometimes I’ve actually gotten a laugh out of it and not because it was written intentionally funny, rather it’s written in such a way that it’s corny and you have to wonder who got paid to write this stuff.

When was the last time you read instructions for an iron. You know, those things that make your clothes smooth and flat. All of them that I’ve read say “Do not iron clothes while wearing”. This always makes me laugh, but I’ve run across many items with similar instructions that make you wonder who actually did this to make them have to write that warning?

Speaking of warnings, have you read your toothpaste? It tells you not to swallow more than you would normally use and gives you instructions if you do. I knew my toothpaste had fluoride, but I didn’t know it was a poison until I read about it and figured out why it had this warning.

Even more warnings, check out the labels on any medicines or pills. There’s a plethora of warnings, reactions, emergency procedures. Some even have full pull out sleeves that you can read.

My point is, there’s writing everywhere. You just need to take a moment or two and find it. Words are all over your house and not just in books. Did you ever read that instruction manual for you phone? Neither did I. I know how to work a phone. But you know what, there are some settings I never knew about until I cracked that little book open and just started reading to see what else was in there. I’ve got loads of manuals for every appliance in my house, yard equipment, sleeping bags, places I never even though to look.

So what do I do with all this information? I’m glad you asked.

Most of the time I do nothing with it all. It’s just a lot of words to read to take up a little time. But every now and again I’ll read a label and it’ll spark an idea. BAM! I’m off to the races. It’ll be just that little kick I needed to give my story a little twist, punch, or stab that it needed. Even more, it might even give me something stupid for a character to do that they shouldn’t be doing like ironing their clothes while wearing them.

Speaking of ironing clothes, I should go take care of some different reading.

Until Next Time!


Posted on May 11, 2012, in Unorthodox Writing Tips and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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