Why Writers Need to Keep on Reading
“You should never read just for “enjoyment.” Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgmental. More apt to understand your friends’ insane behavior, or better yet, your own. Pick “hard books.” Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. — John Waters
If you're like me, you enjoy sitting down with a good book once and awhile and getting the chance to be a reader again. You can sink your teeth into a captivating novel and let your imagine run with the words on the page until it feels like you know the characters that the author has created. Great novels show you something about the world, but they also teach you something about yourself. Reading isn't just about entertainment, it's a reflective act. It focuses the mind and enriches your own reality by exposing you to a something outside of it.
Read to improve
I want to keep improving as a writer, but it's tempting to try and take shortcuts. It's tempting to write feverishly without ever having the humility to pick up the work of someone who has done it much better than I ever will. Every truly great writer was first an avid reader. It isn't that you read amazing literature and then copy it, but rather that you continue to feed your imagine and study the brilliance of someone else's technique.
Last week, sprawled out on a beach towel in the noon sun, I finished reading a novel. I won't name the author or the title, because the truth is I didn't like the storyline that much. But this much I have to admit, the author was skilled with words, and I learned a lot for his technique because it was totally unlike any approach I would have thought to take. I can say I disliked the novel, but only after I've appreciated its strengths and respectfully combed through the pages. After all, who am I to bad-mouth a novel when I haven't even written one myself?
An important act
You don't have to read books that you absolutely love for reading to be an important act. It's always important because it engages your critical thinking, exposes you to new styles, and reinvigorates your imagination. So the challenge I'm faced with -along with anyone else who has writing aspirations- is to be a better reader. Whether you are writing for businesses or pleasure (or both), reading will help you grow.