You’ve heard it a million times, I’ve told you several times, and you yourself likely remind yourself every day: to be a Light Novel Author—you must read. To be a Manga Artist—you must draw. To create anything, you must first learn the tricks of the trade.
Study other light novels or manga, watch anime, play visual novels, absorb anything you can get your hands on and learn from it. Store character tropes, plot devices, worldbuilding ideas, and so on and so forth in your brain.
Yes, you should be learning throughout your entire career as an Otaku Creator.
I want you to stop for a second and see if you’ve actually created anything.
If you’re an aspiring Author, you may know how to write, know everything about the craft of writing, have read one-hundred writing guides, have a million plots and characters stored in your head, but not a tiny bit of matters if you don’t put it to use.
It might feel like I’m calling a few of you out personally, but don’t worry, it’s a common problem. I myself do this with every new job I take on.
Before I started making this website, I watched a million YouTube videos.
Before I went to the gym, I read books on dieting, the proper exercises, and whatever else.
And before I wrote a single sentence, I read a ton of writing guides, articles, and so on.
Nowadays, I don’t even try out a new restaurant without hoping online and checking out their menu first.
And yet, I never started working toward any of my goals until I put the ‘books’ down and just did it.
Because our modern, super convenient world is so riddled with information, we tend to drown in it. Nobody dares leap before they look anymore because there’s no incentive to do so.
But I disagree. We may have more opportunities and knowledge than anyone in the course of human history, but we don’t put it to use.
It’s easier to just sit around and imagine we’ve done things by reading the success stories of others.
My goal with this article is to convince you to stop reading my articles. I could just tell you to stop and hope for the best, but since you seem to love gobbling up information before making a decision, I’ll tell exactly why reading too much may help at first, but will ultimately become a detriment.
The Un-Lived Life
I drove by a church whose marquee read: “All men die, but how many live?”
That hit pretty hard. It’s one thing to acknowledge that you will one day move on from this world and into the next, but rarely do people ponder what it means to actually live.
I won’t get too existential on you, but I imagine most fall into the category of—to quote one of my favorite songs:
“I read about the afterlife, but I never really lived”Fall Out Boy – “Saturday”
And yet most of us try really very hard to ‘live’. We’re obsessed with the desire to become great at one thing or another and therefore fill our lives with every aspect of it.
Whatever you aspire to be, you know that you must first learn how to become one. But where did such a sentiment come from?
In the past, men simply did. But today, men don’t do, they read about doing.
Let’s use watching sports as an example. There are but two logical reasons for one to watch sports:
- You play the sport and want to learn by watching the professionals.
- You physically cannot play, but still enjoy the sport enough to watch others who can enjoy playing it.
And yet, 99% of those who watch sports do so for an illogical purpose—to be entertained. They could go outside and play it themselves, but they don’t.
There is no benefit to watching sports and yet they spend hours upon hours screaming at the TV and getting bent out of shape over events that they have no control over whatsoever.
Why does this happen?
Because in our easily-deceived brains, we perceive what we see happening in front of us as happening to us.
To the sports-watcher, he really is on the field, he’s making plays, scoring goals, leading his team to victory. Notice the language they use: “We beat them last night.” “We almost had them.” “If only we made that goal…”
It’s not ‘he’ or ‘them’, but ‘we’. The watcher is the player as far as his brain is concerned.
This is not limited to sports, the same phenomenon occurs when:
Playing Video Games: Especially first-person RPGs. Ever played any of Bethesda’s titles like Skyrim or Fallout? 8+ hours can pass before you realize what you’ve been doing. According to your brain, you are your character.
Watching Tutorials: There’s always a slight feeling of euphoria when you reach the end of a tutorial video. Your brain thinks you’ve already completed the task.
And, I’m sorry to say: reading light novels and manga.
Any kind of book. It’s easiest with fiction; the reader becomes part of the world if the Author has crafted a convincing world.
But even non-fiction causes this phenomenon. When you read a biography about a successful person, part of your brain believes you experienced his successes on some level.
Self-help books are the worst. They’re great for inspiration, but you can get so caught up in reading one after another and your head will be filled with plans of all the great things your totally definitely going to get around to at some point…but you’re so caught up in your imagination that you never act it out in reality.
All that can be wrapped up in a phrase you may have heard before: living vicariously through someone else.
There’s nothing outright wrong with this if you truly cannot experience the type of life someone else has. That’s why I love reading and writing science fiction and fantasy. None of those realities reflect my own. I literally can’t experience it in reality, but I can in the world of fiction.
It’s when all I do is read about someone who is physically fit/has a loving family/lots of friends/is successful and whatever else and pretend I’m him that it becomes a problem.
Even SF isn’t that farfetched. Usually the only things not found in reality is that they live in space or shoot laser guns instead of bullets. Everything else reflects reality.
It must for us to even relate to the book on some level. No one wants to read about an alien lifeform with twenty tentacles and a body shaped like a melted marshmallow. They want to read about a human who battles such aliens.
All that to say: when you spend all your time living vicariously through someone or something else, you are living an un-lived life. I shouldn’t have to tell you why this is bad, but I will.
One day, when you’ve inevitably grown bored of watching/playing/reading, you’re going to wonder where all your free time went, why even though you felt so fulfilled at one time that you’ve been left with nothing.
And above all else, you’ll be asking: why didn’t I do X? Why didn’t I just suck it up and do X? Just think of where I’d be if I just did X.
Avoid that. Stop reading if you find that reading is all you’re doing. Take the first step and dive headfirst into whatever you want to achieve.
You might hurt yourself, fail, feel bad, but hey, you might also succeed. And no matter the outcome, you won’t be cursing yourself for never having lived.
Spending Too Much Time with Yourself
I say this very hesitantly and with a million caveats, but reading too much can make you ‘too smart’ for your own good.
I will never deny that the more knowledgeable you are about your profession, the better off you’ll be, but there are some occasions where you can take it too far.
The first issue lies in having too much choice.
When you read twenty books on how to write a novel, chances are each one will tell you a different way to do it. That can be good for perspective, but in most cases, it will just leave you incapable of choosing.
You’ll wonder: which one is correct? They have conflicting information, should I trust one over the other? I can’t just ignore them, they must be somewhat right if they got published.
And with all that swimming in your head, you’ll never actually sit down and write a novel. Having too much choice is not a good thing. Ironically, you’d be better off following the ‘worst’ advice to the letter to write your novel.
Why? Because a trash novel is a million times better than no novel at all.
The second issue is information overload.
When you pack your head full of theory and what you believe to be ‘correct’, you’ll be so focused on making sure your light novel follows the ‘rules’ that you’ll either take a ten years to write it or it will read more like a technical manual than fiction.
You should study what ‘good’ fiction is, yes, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow every rule to the letter.
A novel written by someone who did what they wanted and sought only to deliver the story in their heart will always be better than someone following a formula without any emotion. You’re an artist, not a mathematician—act like one.
And the final issue is not one necessarily related to writing, but one you may find interesting nonetheless. That and its indirectly related due to it being related to your mood, which often impacts your ability to write.
I get this from Osamu Dazai’s short story: “Sparrow Who Lost Her Tongue”.
One character was a crotchety old man who lived alone on a mountain, hating everyone, and not caring for anything. His reason for winding up in such a state was that he read too much. It was a throwaway line in the story, but one I began to think about deeply.
By spending all your time reading, watching, playing, or anything that gives you a greater pool of knowledge over those who don’t will give you a fake sense of pride.
As I said earlier, you will begin to know too much for you own good. You yourself have done nothing, achieved no great success, climbed no tall mountain, built no rockets, or whatever else, but you still feel that you have.
You have so much knowledge about anything and everything that no one will ever have anything to offer you. Whatever they might teach you or have you experience with them, you feel you don’t need it, you already know from reading.
Your un-lived life has replaced your actual life.
From there it only gets worse. You’ve read about so many interesting characters in novels that you feel real people are quite boring in comparison. Why talk to people when you think you already know what they’re going to say? Why go on a walk with a friend when you can slay a dragon with your other ‘friends’?
You can live a thousand interesting lives in your head, but will only ever live an un-lived life in reality.
And if all you read about is horrible things like the slave trade, terrorism, true crime or whatever else, you will begin to fear reality.
You’ll be filled with cynicism, fear, and hatred of the reality portrayed in those ‘non-fiction’ books. You have no idea if their true or not, and even if they are, it likely doesn’t have any impact on your life. All you’re doing is torturing yourself by filling your head with terrifying things.
Reading can be beneficial, but only in moderation. It may be a blessing to have infinite knowledge at your fingertips, but it also a curse.
Just Do It Already
What I’m trying to say is: stop reading my articles.
Yes, as counterproductive as that sounds both to your learning how to create and my being able to eat—I don’t want you to spend all your time reading.
You don’t actually need my or anyone else’s help to achieve your goals. The power to do so already lies within you and will never go away. It’s just up to you to take that first step.
My articles can help if you get in a rut or want some advice on the finer details of your chosen craft, but everything else is on you.
Your creation is waiting for you to put all those other books down and focus on it. Spend all your time with it. You may have other interests, but none of them really matter. Your creation is the only one for you. Don’t waste your life chasing others that can’t give you true satisfaction.
Ok, that’s enough of that metaphor. Anyway, just stop living an un-lived life. Live your life as best you can. You may fail a thousand times, but you’ll still be moving forward.
Go on. Quit reading. Just get out there and create!