It’s not like anyone ever has to twist my arm to get me to read. In fact, left to my own devices, I’d probably spend at least a few hours each day with my nose in a book. However, Real Life doesn’t always easily accommodate large blocks of reading time. There is almost always something more pressing that needs doing – something that seems more important – and so reading can fall off the radar.
But, reading is critical for writers. Mandatory. Non-negotiable.
You’ve heard the advice a million times: If you want to write, read. It makes sense, you suppose; but have you ever wondered why it makes sense – why reading is such an important part of becoming a writer?
When you read, it’s like taking an immersion class in the language of story and literature. And like any immersion class, the more you expose yourself to that language, the better you understand it and the more fluent you become.
By reading other writers, you develop an instinctive sense of how story works. You begin to see the universal patterns in story structure and notice how different authors use language in different ways. The more time you spend reading, the easier it becomes to recognize the various craft elements for what they are. Even more importantly, you start to realize when these elements are working, and when they are not.
You can hardly ask for a better education.
This is why it’s so important for you, as a writer, to read – because it’s your only opportunity to learn by example, and examples are powerful teaching tools. Reading shows, instead of telling. Stories don’t have to explain themselves. They don’t preach or dictate. They simply present themselves to you, and leave it to you to figure things out.
Some will tell you to be careful what you read – to only read Good Writing, or to never/always read books from the genre you write. I don’t think there need to be any hard and fast rules about reading. I’ve learned a ton about what not to do by reading subpar novels. And I’m constantly learning from the masters in my preferred genre and cross-pollinating ideas from authors who write in other genres.
I’m not sure you can ever go wrong reading. Just do it. Read. Read as much and as often as you can. Immerse yourself in story. It will make you a better writer.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition – a long-form post on writing and the writing life – and/orintroduce yourself on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.