There are 10 very good reasons why it is vital for writers to also be readers.
Let’s start with this:
They read to gain knowledge, to learn about the world, its people, different cultures, and they read, as Oprah Winfrey says, because it is a “path to freedom”.
For many people, reading is a hobby. Maybe that hobby is what influenced your decision to write. For writers, however, reading is far more than a hobby. It should be something you do…and do a lot. It should be a priority in your daily life.
So, writers, read…and reap the benefits.
10 Reasons Writers Need to be Readers
1. Practice What You Preach. A writer who doesn’t read is like a musician who doesn’t listen to music, or an artist who doesn’t look appreciate art, or teacher who isn’t a learner. You write so others can read your work. Can you expect others to read what you write if you, yourself, aren’t a reader? If you don’t enjoy the very thing you create?
2. Grow your Language and Vocabulary. Letters from words. Words have meaning and create sentences. Sentences convey greater meaning. The more you read, the more language you are exposed to, the number of words you understand increases, and your use of language and vocabulary becomes more sophisticated. This knowledge transfers to your own writing. Your word choice options increase. Your use of linguistics (syntax, dialect, phonetics, semantics) becomes more developed. It all grows exponentially through reading.
3. When you read quality writing, you become a better writer. It’s true. Some of this happens with intention. You start to recognize beautiful language, an artful turn of phrase, or description that transports you in space or time. When you read bad writing, you learn from that, as well. You learn what doesn’t work, what not to do, and what you need to do instead.
By reading great writing, you can learn how a great writer develops character, makes a setting come alive, and how dialogue can flow with deep authenticity. Likewise, you can learn from a subpar writers what poor character development looks like, how a setting can fall flat, and how dialogue can ring false.
No matter what you read, you will learn.
Read within the genre you write. Don’t be afraid of being influenced by other authors. You want to learn from them, not copy them. Internalize that they do well, what you can emulate to strengthen your skills, and what you do differently. Read outside your genre for the same reasons.
4. Relieve Stress. Life is stressful—for writers just as much as for everyone else. Reading has been proven to relieve stress. Take a walk, do yoga, engage in a hobby…all of those are wonderful ways to fill your creative well and relieve stress. But also read, because it can be more effective at whisking away that stress than anything else.
In fact, the University of Sussex found that “reading a newspaper or book works better and faster than listening to music, going for a walk or sitting down with a cup of tea to calm frazzled nerves.”
Reading, then, allows you to take a break from your own writing, relieves stress, and can help fill that creative well.
5. Broaden Your World. As a writer, you need to learn about people and places. You need to be able to imagine characters who are different from yourself, who lead lives different from yours, who have jobs and relationships and exist in worlds unlike your own.
Reading a variety of novels (and nonfiction) about a variety of people, in a variety of places, doing any number of interesting things allows your base of knowledge to grow, and it allows your imagination to blossom.
As a writer, it’s your job to explore the world around you to gain insights you then embed into your writing. One way to do this is by reading what others write, by understanding different points of views, different philosophies, motivations, the conflicts that others face. The depths you can plumb through reading are endless.
6. Increase Knowledge. Whether you read fiction or nonfiction, you are learning. It may be factual, like history from an historical fiction novel, or a nonfiction book about plants, or it could be increasing emotional intelligence through empathy gained from understanding characters and their conflicts. More knowledge in your brain gives you more to work with in your own writing.
7. Heathy Brain and Increased Attention Span. We live in a fast-paced, social media driven world. Did you know that reading actually helps counteract the negative effects of our diminishing attention span? It’s true.
Look at this tidbit from Rainer and Co.: “Studies have shown that bingeing content is a welcome refuge from our busy lives. Instead of dealing with the day’s stresses by zoning out, we’d rather become engrossed in an entirely different world. In a world of text messages, tweets and app notifications, immersive content can feel like a welcome break, especially when it is screenless like a podcast.”
Or like a book. Our brains need to ingest long form content.
8. Feeds your Imagination. Have you ever read something only to think, but wait, what if X, Y, or Z happened instead? Or what if that character had done A instead of B? This is your imagination at work. Reading is a fantastic way to spark that imagination, and writers need active imaginations.
Good writing sparks creativity. It sparks curiosity. It’s what you get from reading, and it’s what you give as a writer.
9. Market Research. As a writer, you never want to write to the market. On the other hand, it’s important to understand what readers are consuming. What sells? What resonates with readers? And how can you take that knowledge and apply it to your writing to make it marketable? Because, after all, we write so that others will read our work.
10. Feed the Machine. That is, the book publishing machine. It’s a sad fact that fewer and fewer people read. Fewer and fewer books are purchased each year. As a writer, that is the exact opposite of what we want to happen. So be a reader. Read other writers. Share about books. Visit your library. Help support the industry of which you are a part.
Do you have other reasons writers should also be readers?
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