Reading: The Creative Center of a Writer’s Life

Above is a concept that Stephen King discussed in his excellent book On Writing, and it’s true as true can be. So in this blog, we’re going to look at the importance of writers reading.

Reading novels is often a more effective method of learning to write than any college course you might take. Of course, classes and courses are helpful to learn method, craft, and to get critiques. So are writer’s conferences like our WriterCon! But it’s in reading great books that we learn how to craft a scene, the shape of a plot, the pacing of our work, and how to build characters. When we read, we’re exposed to other styles, genres, and voices. We’re inspired by writers better than we are, and our imaginations are expanded. Our vocabulary is widened, and in the process, we learn the trends and happenings in the publishing world.

You may be thinking, “I don’t have time to read! I’m just trying to carve out time to write my book in the midst of my busy life.” And what about the time we need to spend reading breaking news on our Smart phones, watching TV movies and series, seeing the latest Youtube cat or baby videos, and reading Social Media posts?

Nevertheless, taking time to read is vital for writers. Although this may sound harsh, Stephen King said, “Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” But don’t just consider reading as a chore or assignment–think of the pleasures of reading a great story or a compelling, suspenseful mystery. I’ve been an avid reader all my life. And one of the ways I’ve happily gotten through coronavirus season, especially the rather long shelter-at-home time, is reading. I’ve read Louise Penny’s mysteries, JoJo Moyes’ The Horse Dancer, Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours, Gabriel Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, several biographies, and numerous Charles Martin’s books, to name a few.

However, don’t think I was laying around all day eating bonbons and wrapped in an 18th century romance. I still worked each day at my home office on the sunporch while doing the considerable work of executive director of a nonprofit organization. But in the evening…I couldn’t wait to get back to my current novel.

Let me encourage you to read, read, read! Read print books and e-books on your Kindle or tablet. Listen to audio books when you take walks, drive to work, or take road trips. Read when you’re waiting at the doctor’s office or before you go to sleep at night. Read fiction and nonfiction. Read biographies, the classics and modern fiction. In doing so, you’ll discover your favorite authors and meet unforgettable characters. And you’ll find your reading will have long-term benefits and make you a much better writer.

As William Faulkner said, “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. If it’s not, throw it out the window.”

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  1. This is so true, Cheri! On Writing was the first book I read about writing. We absorb so much more from reading than we realize.