image from measurethefuture.net
See all these books? Your public library probably looks very like this. Prefer to read on your electronic device? You can probably get ebooks from your public library. Your favorite bookstore will either have the book you want or they can get it poste haste. That bookstore most likely will help you get the electronic version if that's what you want. And there's always amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
Now why, with all these choices would you read a book that doesn't suit your purpose?
And as far as television and movies go -- same question. Why would you willingly, or worse yet unwittingly, donate your time and intellect to a production that will not meet your needs?
As a writer I have three needs that should be met by the books I read and the movies and television I watch. 1.) inspiration 2.) education 3.) entertainment. Yep. It's all about me.
(Well, okay there's one more but we're not supposed to talk about it. 4.) kill time, exercise denial, and avoid. All available on demand from the internet.)
The thing is, if what I'm reading or watching meets any or all of the first three needs, I'm less likely to spend time on the fourth. And more likely to get the laundry done, go to bed at a reasonable hour, and write.
Good writing inspires me. Barbara Kingsolver's work is an excellent example. She is a maestro of English. Much of her work is in first person which in the hands of many authors actually distances me from their characters.
She uses simple language beautifully. Here's a sample from Animal Dreams published in 1990.
"It was hot and my mind was fraying at the edges. I wiped the sweat out of my eyes and massaged my prickly scalp, thinking I must look like a drowned hen, but maybe nobody would recognize me today. Living without a lover was beginning to produce in me the odd sense that I was invisible."
Here is a woman returned to the small Arizona town of her unhappy youth after an absence of fourteen years. She's broken up with her boyfriend of ten years. She didn't belong in that town when she was in high school and she didn't feel that she belonged there now.
I am inside the character. I can feel what she is feeling. Inspiration.
Compare that with Andy Weir's The Martian.
"It's a strange feeling. Everywhere I go, I'm the first. Step outside the rover? First guy ever to be there! Climb a hill? First guy to climb that hill! Kick a rock? That rock hadn't moved in a million years!"
If he didn't use exclamation points I wouldn't know he was experiencing any feeling intensely. And what was his "strange feeling?" I don't know. Expletive deleted! Here's a man alone on Mars with little chance that he'll survive long enough to be rescued. Surely something is going on inside him. Wonder? Amazement? Sheer terror?
Okay, to be fair, Weir is writing his castaway as though in his mission log. And a log is traditionally a formal document expected to hold fast to unembellished facts. That would seem to preclude exclamation points. Or an exploration of the astronaut's emotional response to his predicament.
I understand that the very situation should give the reader a "feeling." But a writer is supposed to show that the character is having a feeling. I just never could get close to Astronaut Watney. It's hard to be inspired by someone I can't relate to. Need number one -- unmet.
Education from The Martian? Hardly. Either Mr. Weir chose to ignore Martian reality or he didn't do his research.
Mars does have dust storms. And they do present problems. They temporarily block out or reduce sunlight which is the major energy source for equipment on Mars. According to NASA "The winds in the strongest Martian storms top out at about 60 miles per hour" but with an atmosphere only 1% of Earth's atmosphere, that 60 MPH wind would not be enough to do the damage ascribed to it by Mr. Weir.
Emotion is hard for me to write, too. My own writing weakness is enough reason for me to read someone who does it well and learn how it's done. Inspiration and education.
So, yes, I threw Weir over for Kingsolver. And now I'm also being entertained.
If you're a writer, you will probably have the same needs, but those needs will be met differently. The trick is to find out what suits you and don't pay too much attention to what meets my needs.