“You should never read just for ‘enjoyment.’ Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgmental. More apt to understand your friends’ insane behavior, or better yet, your own. Pick ‘hard books.’ Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. And for god’s sake, don’t let me ever hear you say, ‘I can’t read fiction. I only have time for the truth.’ Fiction is the truth, fool! Ever hear of ‘literature’? That means fiction, too, stupid.” — John Waters
My handsome/amazing/intelligent nephew who, thank the Lord, LOVES to read. (Q, age 8)
Let’s Get Real
If you’re a writer, I have a question for you: are you reading enough?
Do you know that part of your JOB as a writer is to actually READ? There are so many writers, or maybe I should say “aspiring” writers, who would greatly benefit from reading more often. Reading across genres is educational and helps any writer gain more experience for her/his craft.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” —Stephen King
Reading Makes You a Better Writer
I have read over 100 books…this year. Yep, THIS YEAR. I became really convicted last year about not reading enough. Sure, I read about 80-ish books, which was still pretty good, but I’ve noticed something as I’ve upped the ante in reading more this year:
It’s making me a WAY better writer. (Though, I will suggest that the material I write is largely interpreted as “good” or otherwise, depending on my readers.)
“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”
Seriously. It’s like…I don’t suffer from blocks like I used to. The words in my third and fourth books are flowing easily. I’m not making as many mistakes with syntax. And I know it’s all in thanks to not only becoming a consistent writer over the past five years, but it’s also because of all the reading I’ve been doing. Imagine that.
“It usually helps me write by reading—somehow the reading gear in your head turns the writing gear.” -Steven Wright
[Click HERE to read an article from Huffington Post Books about the importance of reading as it pertains to writing.]
Learning From What We Read
As I read, it doesn’t matter the genre (though I’ll admit I’m way too obsessed with romance books right now—don’t judge!); it matters that I’m soaking in the sentences that are artfully arranged to make me forget that I’m reading, instead transporting me to that world. It matters that I’m taking note of all the heinous grammar crimes and learning from crappy writers—A.K.A. what NOT to do. And, it matters that I’m discovering new writers who may not be as well known, but are geniuses in their own right. Because I want to emulate them while making my own mark as a writer.
Being an avid reader doesn’t just extend to books, however. It also means reading articles, journals, magazines, blog posts, etc., in order to glean knowledge in general. You don’t have to read about writing, you know. You can read about natural health or how to fix a motorcycle. The thing is…your brain knows what to do as it absorbs new knowledge. But what really sets a writer apart from non-writers is that a writer can learn from anything s/he reads. A writer will take those words and transform them into something else—something useful to her/his goals. Read with a purpose.
“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”
[Click HERE to read an excellent post by writer Jeff Goins, who probably does a better job than I do of explaining why writers need to read extensively. ;)]
“If one reads enough books, one has a fighting chance. Or better, one’s chances of survival increase with each book one reads.” — Sherman Alexie
I hear this ALL the freaking time: But, Tamar! I don’t have time to read…at all/that much/that often. Look. I get it. I really do. But, as with anything else, you have to manage your time wisely. If you are serious about being even a good writer, you MUST READ OFTEN. We are all busy. Therefore, sacrifices need to be made in order to improve our craft. If an excellent student is one who studies often, then apply that same idea to a writer who reads often. The two go together.
So, what does this mean? Maybe it means cutting back on TV. Maybe it means not playing that extra hour of video games. Or, maybe it means less time goofing around on Tumblr/Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest before you go to bed and reading for 30 minutes instead. The choice is yours. Remember that you are in control.
I hope you have in mind what you’re going to read this weekend. [Click HERE to read the list 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read.] I will probably be reading my 110th book. Reading over the weekend sounds like my kind of party. Sign me up!
–>By the way, in my next post, I’ll be talking about our 2015 reading initiative at Cosby Media Productions: #RediscoverReading. I’ll let you know how you can take part and join in on the fun. You definitely won’t want to miss out.
For your enjoyment, I’ve provided below some further quotes about reading/writing. After you read them, go and read something! 🙂
“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” –P.J. O’Rourke
“Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book.” –Author Unknown
“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” –Joseph Brodsky
“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” —Confucius
“Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”
—Larry L. King
Note: This number does not include the 8+ books I’ve edited and therefore read this year. I also decided to up my game and changed my goal to 200. Woot!