“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”—Stephen King
|Photo credit: o5com on Flickr|
Long before I knew I was a writer, I was an avid reader. I was that kid in school who sat in class with a book on her lap and had her nose between pages during lunch.
So it always amazed me when someone would tell me they didn’t like to read. Even in elementary school, I gaped at peers who said reading was boring—I didn’t understand them. How could reading be boring? There’s a book for everyone out there, surely you could find something that interested you.
Most of us that enjoy reading will say books are an escape—a chance to slip into someone else’s life, someone else’s world and go on an adventure with them. A good book will make you laugh and cry and feel as though you’re right there with the characters, like the real world is the one within the pages, not the one around you.
For writers, though, reading is even more important than that.
You see, there are only two ways for artists to improve their craft—practice and study the work of other artists. For writers, that means you improve by writing and reading.
But there has to be a balance. You can only improve so much if all you ever do is write—without studying published books out there, you can’t learn about what works or doesn’t work. You aren’t exposing yourself to other voices, other styles, other plots and characters and worlds that would in turn influence your writing. Without reading fresh material, your writing will plateau and it doesn’t matter how much practice you put in, you will stop improving.
On the flip side, if all you ever do is read without putting your pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard), you will learn plenty about craft and styles and voices, but without applying them yourself and putting in on paper, you can’t start your journey as a writer.
Writers need to write and read all the time. Read good books, bad books, popular books, obscure books, classics and trashy novels and whatever catches your eye because there is something to be learned from any book that sits on the shelf—even those you despise. Then, when you’re done reading, you need to sit down and write.
In short, reading gives us the tools to write. Writing without reading is like trying to build a sculpture without clay, or create a painting without paint. Reading isn’t just a hobby for writers—it’s a necessity.
Don’t have the time to read? Make time. Like writing, even five minutes a day of reading is better than nothing, and if you’re serious about improving your craft, then it’s not really an option.