I have a guest post up on Courage 2 Create today. I hope you will check it out here. Many thanks to Ollin for giving me an opportunity to write for his site which I have followed for a couple of years. I have a great deal of respect for him and his writing. It’s full of true passion for his craft.
I had several ideas for the post and some were just as good as the ones I included. I didn’t hold anything back, but the post would have been unwieldy and longer than a blog post should be had I included this information. There are many more reasons for writers to read, or anyone for that matter, than the ones I included. So, if you read that post and want more mental ammunition to read you can carry on here.
1. Reading Teaches You To Recognize Bad Writing
It can be just as important to read bad writing, if for no other reason than to provide motivation. Seeing stuff you can do better than is helpful. About the time you get the urge to quit and trash your project, having a memory bank filled with the published crap you can beat is a miracle cure for melancholy.
For this reason you should read some trash. Read everything.
By the time you start calling some writing bad you are ready to write something better.
2. Reading Helps To Prevent Accidental Plagiarism
Read widely to be sure you aren’t unintentionally imitating another author. The last thing a writer wants to do is create something, pour their energy into it, only to be told this story has already been told in the same way.
If you are going to imitate, you want to know you’re doing it so the nuances and the intention pours through to your reader. Reading is your insurance plan against being called a hack.
3. Reading is a Way To Practice Concentration
Few activities expect silence. Writing is one and reading another. Facing silence is a way to breed writing ideas. Sitting down with a book is a way to exercise the mental muscle writing requires.
4. Reading is Necessary Because You Can’t Write all the Time and Reading is the Next Best Thing
Hands cramp, fingers blister, inspiration fades. Even the most devoted writer needs a break at times. What should a writer do to spend time away from writing? Read!
5. Read Because You Won’t be Going to War, but You Need to Experience It to Write
Few writers are warriors in modern times. To see the effect of war on individuals and society as a whole there is only one other place to turn and that is to the authors who experienced war. Hemingway, Tolstoy, Crane, and O’Brien all experienced war first hand. You probably have a favorite author/veteran. A real understanding of the essential human condition comes out during war and even if you can’t experience it yourself you should take the time to hear a first hand account.
6. Reading Makes You Bigger Than Your Actual Experiences
Writing without an education is a mistake. Not all educations come from universities, however. All writers must have a sense of what came before them to be successful. The best writers live expansive lives. This is expensive. Reading can substitute in some areas.Reading is the cheapest and most efficient form of education we have yet invented.
7. Read To Cure Depression
The statistics are harrowing.
Many writers are sick. Sometimes the sickness is self-inflicted. If writers have the capacity to inflict sickness, might they have the capacity to cure their inner demons?
The writer toils away. Vulnerable. In many cases, without peers near them. Reading allows you to encounter the creative result of the work. It exposes you to the light at the end of the tunnel.
8. Read To Learn How a Writer Behaves
We probably will never know the real story, but I have heard variations of it. Walt Whitman knocks on Emerson’s proverbial door and offers him Leaves of Grass. The work had been refused by publishers, so Whitman published it himself, initially. Whitman basically sold it door to door for some time after that. He believed in his work so he devoted himself to it.
This is one example of how writers behave. Read about other writers like Walt Whitman who believe in their work strongly enough to self-publish. Read the results of self-publishing authors. These works will show you how a writer that believes in their work should behave.
9. Read Because It’s Never Too Late to Learn Something New
The story goes like this, as the hemlock was being prepared to kill Socrates, he was learning a new melody on the flute. Why? The true meaning of the word philosopher is “lover of knowledge.” Socrates, the greatest philosopher, was learning a new tune because he loved to learn. He wanted nothing more in his last moments than this.
This is how writers must be with their writing and their reading. Writers must constantly learn new things. There is no better rapid source of learning than reading. TV and audio are too slow to rely on completely. Be like Socrates. Faced with death spend your last breath to learn something for the sake of learning.
10. Read to Find Your Voice
I think of a writer’s voice as her “self” expressed in such a way to impress the same “self” upon the mind of the reader. Reading is a way to sample how other writer’s have impressed their “self” upon your mind. In this way you can learn to express your own “self.”
11. Read to Learn How to Pay Attention
Someone once said, “God is in the details.” They must have been a reader. For a writer, this means that if you want to create worlds, if you want to be the god of your fictional world, you must do the creating in the way you express the details.
Observing beautiful images is one thing, but learning how to express those images in words takes years of practice and observation. Reading teaches you to pay attention to the image and then shows you how you might translate that image into words.
Observing the way people interact is important, but learning how to express their emotions and conversations to convey their inner states is the study of a lifetime. Reading teaches you to pay attention to your inner states and allows you to see how those inner states might be translated into words.
12. Read to Remind Yourself, You Don’t Know Everything
You can’t know everything. You can’t know what I’m thinking in any moment. You can’t know exactly how a reader will react to your writing because you can’t know their experiences.
Read to remind yourself that you can’t know these things because the writer you’re reading didn’t know these things about you.
13. Read for Motivation to Write
To see the impact of writing and the power of writing and the beauty of writing you must read and let what you read work on you. This is all the motivation you will ever need. You will see the power of words and sentences and you will go to work.
If you find yourself lost and unable to write one true word then at least you have as consolation the ability to read one true word.
From that true word your mind is carried to inspiration. Let books move you to write.
14. Read So You Might Know How Others Perceive Your Work
Professors and students of literature will read your writing. They have read widely enough to know that when people eat together it means something and has meant something for years. They will know that when a writer sends his characters on a quest there is meaning in that as well.
These professors and students of literature have their own lingo. They are also voracious readers! This means they will, at some point, you hope, get their hands on your writing. You want to at least know enough of their lingo to know how they might interpret your writing, don’t you?
These are only some of the reasons writers must read. What I want to know is, why you read?
Photo: Some rights reserved by photosteve101.
I read because I love it, because a day without a book, is like a morning without coffee (unthinkable!). But it’s true, reading is good for so much more than just simple entertainment…
That’s always the most important reason to read!
Brandon, wonderful “reading” post on Courage 2 Create. Thanks for sharing your discovery of the healing art of reading. Reading well not only improves our writing, it improves our reading habits as well. Glad you leg is better and that you’re standing tall.
Thank you! I couldn’t agree more!
T. Lloyd Reilly
Your best post yet. Perhaps you should give up and just be a writer, you do it so well. The Courage 2 Create piece was equally great!
Truly kind words from a scholar and a gentleman!
Some days my 4 kids exhaust me and existing on 6 hours of sleep regularily will sometimes not allow me to read…sadly. But I still get to write those days right?
Well, I don’t have kids so I can’t completely sympathize. I will let you make the call.
Sometimes, though, reading for just five minutes from a poem to get a spark of inspiration is helpful.
Maybe you could put a favorite poem in your wallet and pull it out when you have just moments to spare.
Maybe you could read to the kiddos?
Maybe you could fall asleep listening to an audio book?
Hopefully, you can find a few moments of peace.
I read for many of the reasons you mention here. I read to relax, to laugh, to cry. I read to escape my own worries or work now and then. I read to get inspired. I read those I consider “masters” of the craft of writing to learn from them. I read because to me, it is freeing and fun.
All great reasons! Thanks for sharing.
This was a great post. I read for all of those reasons, but especially because I thoroughly enjoy entering into the world that the author has carved out for me. It is my escape from reality. 🙂
“Thorough enjoyment” is always the best reason to read!
Thanks for the feedback and for taking the time to comment.
How to read like a writer | Creative Writing Studies
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