Does Reading Help Your Writing?


“If you want to be a good writer you have to read…LOTS!”
 
Have you ever heard anybody say that?

I got sick of it.  Every time I went to a website that talked about writing, or perused a writing magazine, or talked to an author, they all said the same thing: “Make sure you spend just as much time reading as you do writing.”

Wuh?

Old me: “Well that’s stupid.  I’m trying to become a writer!  I have family, work…LIFE.  If I don’t take every extra second I have to write I’ll never get that best-seller written!”

Well, old me was ignorant and stubborn.  Thankfully I saw the light.

Three years ago I was still in the early stages of working on my new YA novel and I was at Barnes and Noble with my wife.  She had gone off to wander the shelves and I was going through the magazine stacks.

I walked past the new Writer’s Digest once.  I walked past it twice.  Finally I picked it up.

I walked over to the cafe and sat down next to my love, who had two or three books she was skimming through (she’s an avid reader).  I began looking over the articles and pretending like I was interested and learning a lot.  I stopped on an article that said, in a nutshell, “Read More And Become a Better Writer”.  I sighed, frustrated.

Again with the reading!

My wife was sitting there with her stack of books.  I remember breaking down and gently asking her, “If I read more do you think I’ll be a better writer?”

Short of stating the obvious, she kindly, encouragingly, said, “If you were to ask any one of the authors who has their book in this store that question, what do you think they would say?”

I looked around the store at the THOUSANDS of books and reality set in.  I finally decided to let go of my pride and found the humility to do what had been blatantly obvious all along – READ!

“Honey, what’s the best written book you’ve read recently?”

She thought for a second and replied, ‘The Goose Girl’ by Shannon Hale.” Uh, okay…sounds manly!

I got the book the next day from the library and read several chapters.  The writing was amazing and on a WHOLE different plane than the stuff I was typing on the keypad.  It would have been easy to get discouraged, but…

The next time I sat down to write, I instantly noticed an improvement in my writing.  No kidding; it was instant.  And the more I continued to read, the more my writing continued to improve.

I am here to testify to you that it works.  Yes, reading does make you a better writer!

Ever since then I have been an active reader.  I strive to read a book every two weeks.  Sometimes the books are well written and I learn ways to improve and sometimes I don’t like what I’m reading and I learn the type of writing I want to avoid.  Either way, I’m learning and growing as a writer.

So if you are not already, find something to read…and don’t stop – your writing will thank you for it!

PS – Thank you Shannon Hale for opening my eyes!

If you are a writer, how does being a more active reader help your writing?


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