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Why Reading is Essential For Writers

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New Profile PictureThere’s a Steven King quote out there that says, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write.” This insight comes from his book , On Writing, which I can’t recommend enough. As I’ve recently finished NaNoWriMo, I have to say that I can’t agree more. Here are some of the reasons why.

  • Reading inspires. This NaNoWriMo, I struggled a bit. There were many days where the words were fighting me, but reading helped. Even though it wasn’t exactly in the same genre, reading a new book by one of my favorite authors helped to get my creative juices flowing.
  • Reading Teaches. Don’t think that you need to get some big degree to be able to chase your writing dreams. There are books and free online resources that can help you refresh your grammar and editing skills, or give you tips on storytelling. However, reading books can just just as good a teacher as any classroom. Think about your favorite books, and then revisit them. Make notes on what you thought was great about the story, or what didn’t work for you. Don’t have on your editor or writer hat, just think about what you loved about them from a reader’s perspective. You might find that you don’t necessarily agree with some of the conventional advice out there.
  • Reading Relaxes. It’s not easy to try and make a go of a writing career. There’s a lot of books out there yours can get drowned out by. Not to mention all the social media posting, editing, marketing research, organizational aspects, etc. But if you make time to sit back and escape into a new world, you’ll be able to de-stress and recharge your batteries for the day ahead. There are some, like my friend Kris Oster, that say taking time for doing something you enjoy to start the day off increases your productivity.

Let’s not even get into the reading comprehension issue (you use it or you lose it!), and the other benefits of reading. No matter what way you look at it, making time to visit your favorite fictional worlds is an important part of being a writer. What book will you read today? Comment and let me know, or just share some of your own favorites. I’d love to hear about them.

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Jamie White is a music addict, book lover, pet servant & NaNoWriMo survivor. When she's not busy writing posts for CultureShock, she's taking pictures for her photo blog and spending time with her husband and pets. She released Stains on the Soul and Clutter via Pagan Writers Press in 2013.

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4 Responses

  1. Steve McCarthy
    | Reply

    I had a fourth grade teacher than made reading my most hated activity and her my most hated authority figure. For decades I slowly garrotted her to death in my dreams, pursuing a life taking out all my antagonisms by crushing defectives in the caldron of the judicial system. I engaged every possible adventure before me, taking to heart the motto that “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Now I find myself, having more than my share of lifetimes of adventure and contest, facing the predicament of promulgating their value on a population of degenerated illiterates that purportedly cannot handle a semi-colon. I recall someone once said that Ibsen didn’t write for children. Do you have any suggestions?

  2. Lauren
    | Reply

    Great post. I think lots of people writing today do not read. You can see it in their (lack of) vocabulary and style. You can see it in their poor storytelling–an obvious lack of understanding about how plot, characterization, pacing, etc. work. I see lots of discussions and blogs where writers only reference movies and tv shows, not books. While you can learn something about storytelling from watching those, many of the techniques used are not transferable to prose such as attempts at quick cuts between scenes that may work on the screen or the long wordy descriptions that I suppose to be mimicking a panning camera but rarely work in print. Each medium has its own rich toolbox and often I see writers who do not know how to use what is available to them as authors.

    • Jamie White
      | Reply

      Thanks, Lauren. I totally agree with you on your comment , and I can also see a lack of reading comprehension skills out there when I am browsing Facebook and other sites that perhaps could be helped by immersing oneself in a book more. 🙂

  3. Steve McCarthy
    | Reply

    Perhaps what you are describing is a lot like the way most people shoot and fish. With shooting, they buy their weapons, shoot them a few times at the range, leave them somewhere (all too accessible to children), and feel safe, instead of practicing the demanding combat pistol techniques required for survival in a firefight. When the sociopath, with his years of practice in prison disarming cops, starts the home invasion, the heirs wonder how the homeowner could have been shot by their own weapon. With fishing, they get all the gear they can imagine they’d need, go out on a boat somewhere, throw their lines in and pray, without studying the habits and environment of their quarry. If they catch anything, they call it luck. When it comes to writing, they concoct an unlikely story woven in a tangled web of disparate, inconsistent locutions and bad grammar, then cast it out on a sea of self-publishing panderers, hoping they will catch fame and fortune. I won’t plague you further with this, as I have answered my own question; and now resolve to do what I do best, and ignore the rest, conventional wisdom notwithstanding.

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