In talking to my family recently, I realized that I've made one of those assumptions that reveal some of our opinions for the asinine craziness they are. This assumption was about what reading is--that it involves reading fiction (preferably fantastic fiction) for fun and that everyone should be doing this. That readers who like nonfiction aren't 'real' readers. What an idiot I am and what an opportunity I've missed to share interests with someone rather than hector them.
My bookshelves have classics, natural history, fantasy, science fiction, biography...many genres and many time periods. They are a reflection of my interests and I am well-read to the extent that money and time offer me the opportunity to be so. However, that doesn't make me the "typical" reader, the "right kind" of reader, or a "scholar." It makes me a reader.
As my writer's group discusses different ways to become better writers, we begin to touch on the assumptions that are the basis of our judgment calls and our writing. I can attest that this can be difficult, as I seek to break down firmly established opinions about fantasy and writing and come out with a better, more entrancing story. Learning the difference between the writer's skill comment and the reader's preference comment is still one of the hardest challenges of belonging to a group. After all, I, too, tend to offer opinions on the 'right' way to approach a character or story and find myself sometimes peeved that the author and I don't share a closer basis for our fictional architecture. I'll be running at this wall until I break through and I be interested in hearing from others who've made it to the other side. How did you come to trust in your writing or music or art or whatever?