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Every now and then you’ll come across a writer (often an unpublished writer, but still) who says they don’t read. They’ll offer as an excuse the need to keep their voice pure, to stay inside their own heads.
To which I say, if your voice is that vulnerable to influence maybe it’s not that great to start with, but that’s another post.
In reality, writers — whether you’re writing fiction, newspaper articles, poetry, blog posts — need to read.
We need to read other blogs, for sure, but also good magazine and newspaper writing, novels, nonfiction, books about writing and in whatever genres you like, classics and pulp, stuff you wouldn’t normally pick up and things you’ve read before and loved.
Why? Glad you asked.
To Fall in Love with Language
I do so love a nicely bandied word.
— Petyr Baelish, A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin
To be a good writer you need to fall in love with language and stand in awe of its ability to change people’s minds and moods and level of understanding.
You need to have language in your head, delight in a turn of phrase, love the way a story unfolds.
You must read things that are beautiful and stirring and think “I wonder how she did that?” And, just after, “I want to do that.”
To Inspire Improvement
When you read great writing, you should feel the need for improvement in your own writing. You should want to improve your writing constantly.
If you feel your writing is good enough, you’re wrong. There is always room for improvement. You can always do better than you did yesterday.
You should always do better than you did yesterday.
Reading helps improve your storytelling skills, and even if you write nonfiction you’re telling stories, so that’s vital.
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It’s Just Fun
Reading is the only way to really get into other people’s lives, minds and hearts. A great movie or TV show does it to some extent, too, but reading is even better because it’s up to your imagination to make the pictures from the words.
Somehow connecting to people in books makes it easier to connect to people in life. You understand that life is a lot more complicated than any of us are showing, that we all have (or should have, if you ask me) powerful interior lives that we can connect to through books and stories.
It’s a great way to pass the time. It’s cheap and portable and a great example for our kids.
So take some time with some great reading soon. You’ll be glad you did for all sorts of reasons.
Are you a reader? I’d love to hear about your favorites or what you’ve been reading lately. (I’ve been working through The House of Mirth lately.)