Aside from writing itself, I believe reading is the single most important element in a healthy writing life.
As Natalie Goldberg pointed out:
If you read good books, when you write, good books will come out of you.
You should be reading the type of stories we want to write. Why? Here are five reasons.
1. They Make You Envious
If you’re not reading stories that make you drool with envy over the author’s ability to craft fascinating characters and string together beautiful word pearls, you’re not setting the motivational bar high enough.
Read enough authors who make you think, Oh, I could never write like this, and you may one day surprise yourself by writing like them.
2. They Show You How It’s Done
You’ll find no better place to learn that at the feet of the masters. When you read a story you wish you’d written, take note of the techniques that worked and the elements you particularly loved. Then put those components to work in your own writing.
3. They Convince You of the Worth of Writing
Sometimes it can be easy to doubt the worth of writing, particularly after you’ve logged a long writing session in which nothing went right. When you find yourself asking “What’s the point?”, dig out a good book.
After closing that back cover, you’ll probably have remembered why crafting stories are worth the struggle.
4. They Remind You How Your Dream Started in the First Place
As Susan Sontag points out,
Reading usually precedes writing and the impulse to write is almost always fired by reading. Reading, the love of reading, is what makes you dream of becoming a writer.
5. They Teach You to Avoid Clichés
By familiarizing yourself with the salient and common points of your genre, you can learn which elements have been overdone. It’s a mistake to believe reading widely in your genre will sap your originality by causing you to subconsciously copy other authors.
The truth is just the opposite. Read widely, so you know what’s original and what isn’t.
A writer who doesn’t read is like a race car that avoids pit stops. You can’t keep racing forever without stopping to refuel. Just as you set aside a daily time to write, make sure you’re also setting aside time to read. When you read the type of stories you write, you’re doing legitimately important research, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.
What’s the last book you read that inspired you as a writer?
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