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5 Key Reasons Writers Read

5 Key Reasons Writers (Should) Read

As an author, book coach, and writing instructor, I talk to a lot of writers. One refrain I hear a lot, especially from newer writers is, “Oh, I don’t really read.” When I push them to tell me why, many say it’s because they don’t want to be influenced by other writers.

This is something that always makes me scratch my head. I can’t think of any other realm of artistic endeavor where the creator says they never look at the work of other artists. Are there painters who refuse to explore the work of other painters? How could a musician refuse to listen to the performances of other musicians? Why would an actor never watch another actor’s work? Even athletes study other athletes!

To be honest, as a lifelong voracious reader, I could never bear to go for long (more than a day, probably) without reading, and I realize that’s not the norm for every writer. However, there are some very valid reasons for why writers should read.

Here are my top five:

1) Writers Read to Inform Their Writing

Reading exposes us to different styles, techniques, forms, and structures, which can inspire and inform our writing. Writing without reading is akin to painting without ever visiting an art gallery. We need to see what is already being written, explore a variety of styles and forms in order to discover our own voice. We can’t do that if we keep our heads down and never bother to delve into what others are writing.

2) Writers Read to Develop Language

Reading helps us develop vocabulary and deepen our understanding of language, which helps make our writing more effective. Exploring how other writers are using language, creating new similes and metaphors, and using imagery to evoke sensory and emotional reactions in the reader, can help us expand our own thinking and ability to discover new ways to express and convey our thoughts, feelings, and ideas through prose.

3) Writers Read to Expand Understanding

Reading across a wide variety of genres and authors helps expand our understanding of different perspectives and cultures, which helps make our own writing more inclusive and diverse. Reading window books, stories that expose us to different cultures and viewpoints, expands our knowledge of how other people live and see and experience the world. This helps us avoid making uninformed assumptions about other people, places, and cultures. For a great Ted Talk about the importance of this, see The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

4) Writers Read to Improve Critical Thinking

Reading helps improve critical thinking and analytical skills. This helps us evaluate and improve our own writing. I view all books as Mentor Texts, books and stories we can use to evaluate and identify good writing techniques.  Exposure to good writing, inspires us to push our writing to greater heights.  Truth be told, exposure to bad writing can inform us on things to avoid.

5) Writers Read for Inspiration

Reading can also serve as a source of inspiration for writers, helping us generate new ideas for our own writing. I call this filling the hopper. Absorbing information, internalizing stories, letting all of that churn in our subconscious, provides fertile ground for developing rich, new stories of our own. The more we fill the hopper, the more opportunity we give ourselves to make fresh connections, inferences, and layers that add nuance. All of which, deepens the story experience for readers. IMHO, the best new stories and mashups come from writers who read widely and broadly and have filled their brains with a diverse array of stories.

BONUS Reason Writers (Should) Read:

How will you ever find solid comp titles to use in your pitches and query letters if you don’t read?


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Published inBook Coaching