Wednesday, August 29, 2007

To Read or Not to Read?

by Annette Lyon

I heard an author once say they were just too busy to read anymore. Those pesky writing and publishing things just took too much time out of the day.

It should be no surprise when I tell you that shortly after this conversation the quality and creativity of this person's work took a serious nose dive.

Why is reading so crucial to be a good writer?

Sure, perhaps you can glean an idea or two from other books. I know I've read novels where I think, "Dang, that's a great verb!" "cool plot twist," "awesome character," or whatever, and mentally file it away for future reference. But that's not why I read.

Through reading, you can also learn a lot that you can later draw on for research purposes. Also good, but not the main reason to be reading, either.

Reading for a writer is like exercise for a runner. If you don't do it, you're going to lose your ability. Reading books opens your brain to new creative voices and fresh images. In a very real way, it recharges your writer's batteries.

To mix metaphors completely, if you aren't feeding your inner artist with a regular diet of stories and words, quite simply, it's going to starve. The inevitable result is that your work will fall flat, lifeless. If you manage to produce anything, you'll begin repeating yourself, not only in word choice but in storylines, characters, and conflicts.

Read a variety: of course read the genre you write in, but branch out as well. Try a new genre, a new author. Read non-fiction as well as fiction. Read newspapers and magazines. Read short stories and poetry. Heck, read cereal boxes, mentally rewrite billboards on the freeway, enjoy bumper stickers.

Work that part of your brain that is connected to images and words, and when it's time to perform, it won't fail you.


Josi said...

The last couple years have been harder than ever for me to get my reading in, and I've found more and more not to like about the books I read. But I've noticed a difference in my writing, my inspiration levels have definitely decreased. I need a good kick in the reader-pants. I miss it.

Janette Rallison said...

It's definitely hard to find time to read--but I consider it one of the perks of being a writer. You can read without guilt because it's part of your job.

Julie Wright said...

definitely a perk of the career we've chosen!

Heather B. Moore said...

Sometimes I take a week off of writing and just read all the books that I've been piling up. We also learn subconsciously how to be a better writer as we read great books.

Ajoy said...

To be honest, I don't know what that feels like since I haven't published a book -yet. I'm in the midst of reading all I can to gain the confidence and inspiration I need to get me through writing my first novel. I really does help.

Once my novel is published...and then hopefully another...and another- I will remember this fine advice you have shared. Thank you. :)