Reading Makes You a Better Writer

One of my goals for this year is to become a stronger writer. Not only do I want to increase my reading output, but my writing too. With that in mind, I thought it would be a great idea to dedicate some blog entries on ways to become better at that almighty craft known as writing. One simple strategy-read more! According to an article in The Huffington Post, reading has a tremendous impact on developing writing skills in several ways. For example, it helps you to increase your knowledge in areas such as vocabulary, genre, and knowledge of the way words flow. The article also states the importance of learning from a wide variety of the great masters of the craft.

I couldn’t agree more! Here are some of the ways me reading has helped me to become a better writer:

  • It has helped me to appreciate multiple styles of writing that I can use to develop my own particular voice
  • It has definitely increased my vocabulary
  • It has expanded my appreciation for multiple genres as well as many different authors
  • It has been the best muse for me to come up with my own story ideas

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I also like what this article says about how writing is not a skill that can be fully taught. While it is true, you can graduate with a degree in creative writing, that means nothing if you are not actively studying and practicing it on a regular basis. I remember spending four years learning another language in high school. Although I made great grades, that knowledge is almost useless to me now as I did not actively practice it in the time that followed. Such a waste. I hate the gap of time that I spent away from writing as it made my skill level drop considerably. You’ve gotta exercise those writing muscles and the best place to start is to actively read.

Another important function of reading is that it increases your real world knowledge. There’s a reason why classic literature such as Dickens, Conrad, and Austen are still relevant in today’s technological society. These authors not only wrote about people but had a deeper understanding of how minds and feelings work. It’s a universal truth that while the world changes, we need to stay grounded in understanding each other. Reading helps you to develop empathy of those around you. It helps us to understand new cultures and ways of learning. Reading takes us into the minds and hearts of those from other times and worlds.

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The advantages of reading don’t stop there! In a preview of her new book 10 Core Practices for Better Writing, Melissa Donovan covers the first chapter on reading as the most important step. Reading and writing are like yin and yang, you can’t fully have one without the other. While writing can be taught, it doesn’t fully flourish without the habit of reading.

I love how Donovan talks about the power of the subconscious. Although we may not directly remember what we read, there are places in the backs of our minds where that knowledge gets stored and later utilized. I think about how sometimes a brief memory of something I read comes to the surface while I’m in the middle of something else. Often a piece from a book I once read comes flowing out of my fingertips when I write. Sometimes the influences are subtle, other times more apparent. If I’m reading a particular favorite author such as Bradbury, my immediate writing begins to reflect touches of his style. It’s like a piece of forgotten music bubbling to the surface.

Donovan also discusses our reading choices. Sure it’s great to read the classics, but tackling contemporary works is worthwhile too. We are like mirrors in reflecting back the works we consume. As Donovan says, “If you mostly read textbooks, your writing will be dry and informative. If you read torrid romance novels, your prose will tend toward lusty descriptions. Read the classics and your work will sound mature. Read poetry and your work will be fluid and musical.” Personally, I feel like it’s important to read in your own genre, but also to explore other fields as well. There are positives to pull from any work, even the bad ones.

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I would love to get your thoughts on this post. Comments are always welcome!

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”-Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

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