The Importance of Reading for Writers

reading-for-writersJust like visiting art galleries helps artists hone their craft, the same goes for reading for writers. Of all languages ever spoken, English contains the most words (over 250,000). That leaves us with the biggest capacity for vocabulary. Isn’t that a wonderful thought? That really makes it a waste not to indulge in the beauty of words. Especially if you’re a writer.

What was the last good book you read? If you had to think about it, it’s been too long. Writers should always be reading. Exposure to good writing will make you better at it. To fully benefit from this influence, you should be selective of what you read. Only feed your subconscious with words worth being there. Because once they’re in there, without even thinking about it, you’ll start using them in your own writing.

If you’ve fallen out of the habit of reading regularly, fear not. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Stay current.

You’re not limited to just printed books. There are lots of blogs and websites where brilliantly crafted writing is shared and written for people of this generation. If you want to make the best of your communication capabilities, you should know what all the kids are saying these days. Cracked.com, for example, has some very well-written articles. In addition to reading about topics that are trending and relevant right now, you’ll get some entertainment out of them as well. Brainpickings.org is also a great reference point. It’s a collection of book reviews on varying matters. Both the books being reviewed and the writing that describes them are worth your time.

Don’t forget the classics.

The Hemingways and Bukowskis of the world didn’t become classics for nothing. Timeless works of literature will always have merit. Going back to the example of an art gallery, observing old masterpieces puts us in a different headspace that can only do us good. In the same way, this is true for reading the classics. Whether it’s for their construction of rhetoric or their take on humanity, classics are worthy of a revisit from time to time.

Switch it up.

It’s good to expose yourself to a diverse assortment of writing styles. Comparing different styles gives you an idea of how to communicate a certain way — whether you’re being down to earth, serious, sarcastic, etc. This can help you see what you like and don’t like, resulting in the development of your own style. Or, it can act to fill your writer’s toolbox with distinctive tones and techniques that you may want to use. In any case, don’t be afraid to try out new things — you never know what you may discover about yourself.

Read about how to write better.

In addition to the previously mentioned resources, it’s good to read books devoted to concrete writing advice. The writers of such books show a passion for the craft so inspiring that it’s almost offensive not to give them your attention. Some great examples are On Writing Well by William Zinsser, The Elements of Style by E.B. White and William Strunk Jr., and Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott.

Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño said that reading is more important than writing. Whether you’re a writer or not, it’s a valuable habit to have. As an English speaker, you have access to the world’s biggest collection of words. Why not explore them?