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Why Writers Must Be Readers

Why Writers Must Be Readers

We've heard many aspiring authors say some variation of the following quote:

"I love writing but I'm not much of a reader."

This can quickly become an issue depending on your goals as an author. Writing is an outlet. Many of us feel the need to write because we have something to say and we feel people need to hear it. Reading, however, is an inlet. It's how we learn, experience new points of view and are entertained. For many it doesn't have that same cathartic effect as writing.

The amount you read does not matter if you only want to write for yourself. Keep your outlet, write for yourself and enjoy it. There is no shame in it; we all write for different reasons. For those that would like to have their work read by others, we'll need to get past any aversion to reading and really dive in.

Why do we need to read in order to write? We can answer that question by drawing a parallel with another artistic profession.

Imagine a musician who did not listen to music written or performed by other musicians. The absurdity of the situation is evident in that the most common question asked of a new performer on the music scene is "Who are your influences?"

There would never have been a Rolling Stones without Muddy Waters. The Stones couldn't have been as great if they didn't have the Beatles to drive them toward excellence. And without the Stones, The White Stripes and Aerosmith might have been polka bands. Not a rock fan? Substitute any musician (or published author) and you'll be able to track their influences backward and their influence forward.

What's the point? If you are not reading you are not learning all you can about how to become a better author. If you are not learning you will never improve.

So, start reading everything you can get your hands on. Yes, everything. Read the stories in your preferred genre to see how it's been done in the past. Read stories in other genre to see what could be done to expand you're preferred genre. Read stories that might not be ready for publication, to learn to spot areas that need improvement.

You'll be amazed at how quickly your own writing will improve as you start to spot trends in the tactics used by your peers.

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Reader Comments

Toni McGuire @ Friday, December 14 2012 9:23 AM Flag Inappropriate
I am a musician - singer/songwriter. I never thought about it but yes, listening to other musicians and reading other writers is the same thing. I get new ideas reading and listening and find it helpful doing so.

M.S. Martens @ Wednesday, November 07 2012 6:47 PM Flag Inappropriate
I believe that reading can not only provide a very symbiotic break from writing, but that when I'm reading something I find truly engaging that it does well to stimulate my mind and motivates me to write my next piece.

Peggy Carr @ Wednesday, November 07 2012 1:15 PM Flag Inappropriate
Although I do not want to be influenced, and I don't want to miss the particular flavor of the ideas coming to me, I think it is perfectly legitimate to write the wriggling animal and then, check to see where I can bump it up, a couple of rungs, from what I read, for reference : )

Bill @ Wednesday, November 07 2012 11:00 AM Flag Inappropriate
Reading to me, paricuarly short stories (my passion) - even after 40+ years, is like sitting through a creative writing class. If you can't learn something from everything you read you're not paying enough attention to your craft. What was it that made you like or dislike the story so much? etc.

sonny dinger @ Tuesday, November 06 2012 8:10 PM Flag Inappropriate
Hi There, As a musician, guitar first then Organ,guitar, I listened to country music, I enjoyed instrumentals, I have played all my life, I still work and enjoy my music, I play piano in church, I am a senior of 77yrs, and have much more to learn is why Iam writing here. I am still learning LOL So

Leonard @ Tuesday, November 06 2012 6:39 PM Flag Inappropriate
I disagree about the reading of others' writings. I don't want to be influenced. The stories just 'come to me' and I write about them. I don't want to be influenced with other writers' story ideas.

sonny dinger @ Monday, September 03 2012 12:13 AM Flag Inappropriate
Reading is as studying to be a better writer.If one is really wanting to write Sonny

Seth Durham @ Friday, August 31 2012 12:26 AM Flag Inappropriate
Well said. Stephen King in his book "On Writing" says: "If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot...If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write."

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