The one thing every writer must do

Man readingThere are lots of great things about being a writer. For instance, finishing a book. Or creating whole worlds and characters so that you feel like you’re living in some sort of personal fairy tale wonderland. Or how about when you’re writing and your characters do something you didn’t expect or your plot takes a turn you hadn’t anticipated?

Recently it struck me that there’s one constant best bit to this writing gig. One aspect that has been, and will always continue to inspire me to keep writing.

Reading is essential to a writer’s success

Yep, I’m a bibliophile from way back. To me, there is nothing better than losing yourself in a book.

As a writer, the importance of reading cannot be ignored. While it’s easy to live and breath your story and immerse yourself in your writing, I’ve come to learn that reading is as essential to my success as writing. Here’s why:

  • Reading helps you to discover your writing voice. Now this may sound counter-intuitive. How can reading other people’s work help you to discover your writing style? Nor am I suggesting that you seek to copy or imitate another author’s voice or style. However, by reading plenty of other books, you’ll begin to get a sense of your own voice in terms of what you want to say and where you sit with regard to the various genres.
  • Reading cements the craft of writing. By reading many and varied books, you will learn a lot about writing. Sometimes it’s a conscious observation and other times it will occur by osmosis. Everything from plot to dialogue to characterisation will be revealed to you in reading other author’s works. There may also be times when you see clearly what not to do.
  • Reading gives you ideas. Again, I’m not encouraging plagiarism. But how many times have you been stuck on a certain aspect of your novel or formulating ideas and a movie, an artwork or a story has enlightened you? I’ve lost count. By opening yourself to the creativity of others, you’ll release the creativity in yourself.
  • Reading drives the passion for writing. I think it’s fair to say that many authors are driven to write as result of their love of reading. What I’ve realised is that giving up on reading when you’re trying to write a book has negative consequences. Sometimes you need a break from your story. Other times it can help to read the genre you’re writing. And mostly, I find that reading great books by other authors inspires me to write a great book myself.

Reading is real work

Kicking back and picking up your latest novel should hopefully have an element of relaxation about it. However, as an author, there’s also an element of work involved as well. You’re investing time in your craft, building your skills and using reading to help you brainstorm.

So next time a family member or friend gives you a look and says, “Reading again?” Just tell them it’s work.

How about you? Do you find reading improves your writing?

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