The secret to great writing is becoming a dedicated reader.
Your writing is a culmination of everything you have read over time.
The voices. The styles. The headlines.
It’s everything you have picked up along the way. If you want to become a better writer, you need to read more.
To improve as a writer, you can’t neglect reading.
A writer who doesn’t read is like an athlete who doesn’t watch his or her own sport or a movie producer who doesn’t watch movies. Even if you are a natural storyteller, you still need to read.
What’s the essential factor for attaining great writing?
Let’s dive into how reading improves your writing skills.
1. The more you write, the more you need to read
The secret to writing is reading a lot. When you write more, you need to read more. This will help you stay balanced. Make sure you don’t get writers’ block, and don’t burn out.
Write an hour a day, read an hour a day.
“When you start reading in a certain way, that’s already the beginning of your writing. You’re learning what you admire and you’re learning to love other writers. The love of other writers is an important first step. To be a voracious, loving reader.”— Tess Gallagher, an American poet, essayist, and short story writer
2. Reading is like exercise
Exercise is the nourishment to your body. Exercise lifts your spirits because your body releases chemicals called endorphins. This triggers positive feelings in your body, like morphine.
The same thing can be said about reading.
Have writer’s block? Go read something you that interests you.
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”— Richard Steele, an British writer and politician
3. You are what you read
If you really think about it, what you make a note of comes out from what you read. Reading helps you make an association with your experiences.
If you read good writing, you’ll be a good writer. Reading has a bigger impact on you than you may realize. What you jot down is influenced by the stuff you read.
“If you read good books, when you write, good books will come out of you. Maybe it’s not quite that easy, but if you want to learn something, go to the source. Dogen, a great Zen master, said, ‘If you walk in the mist, you get wet.’ So just listen, read, and write. Little by little, you will come closer to what you need to say and express it through your voice.”— Natalie Goldberg, an American author
4. Don’t make a fool of yourself
Every time you type a word, a reader is reading a word. Every word you put down on paper portrays what type of person you are.
- Are you helpful?
- Are you entertaining?
- Are you serious or funny?
Your personality and style comes off the page. What you read is usually what you commit to paper.
“The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor.”— Stephen King, an American author
5. Study what you read
In today’s fast-paced world, we like to skim instead of read. It’s important to take the time to really read what you are reading.
Study what you just read. Read it again if you didn’t understand it. Really digest what you read.
“When I was teaching writing — and I still say it — I taught that the best way to learn to write is by reading. Reading critically, noticing paragraphs that get the job done, how your favorite writers use verbs, all the useful techniques. A scene catches you? Go back and study it. Find out how it works.”— Tony Hillerman, an American author
Bringing it all together
Read, read more, and read even more. Find books, magazines, articles, newsletters, and blogs that you can read.
Read whatever you can find: long stories, short stories, fiction, and non-fiction. Find anything you can read.
“Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out.”— William Faulkner, an American writer
Reading improves your writing. It’s the foundation of a successful career. It’s really that simple.
The more you read, the better you write. The hard part is the execution and making it an ingrained habit.