5 Reasons Writers Should Be Reading
Many writers are familiar with this conundrum: you’ve always loved to read and it’s the reason you want to be a writer, so you’re trying to write every day and hit those word count goals, but now you kind of miss reading! However, of all the things that fall by the wayside when you make writing a priority— diets, Netflix binge habits, and bonding time with the brunch crew— do not let reading be one of them! Here are five completely guilt-free reasons why you should revisit that 2007 young adult fantasy novel you abandoned halfway through and fall in love with reading again.
1) Reading Helps Us Stay Current & Fresh
When returning to reading, it’s in your best interest to dive into publications within your preferred genre. For example, if your WIP is historical fiction or romantic comedy, we recommend making a beeline straight to the historical fiction or rom-com sections in your local bookstore or on your e-reader. As an added perk, if you find something on the shelves that’s a little too similar to your WIP, it could be the motivation you were looking for to get back to writing. Don’t let it pass you by. By reading, you’ll stay current and keep your ideas fresh, which could give you a leg up on the competition by putting out something unique and wholly yours. Conversely, if your genre is experiencing a popularity wave, it may be the right time to capitalize on it and publish! After all, it’s your voice and writing style that give your ideas and books their unique spin. Either way, keeping up with your chosen genre is an invaluable exercise.
2) Books are a Writer’s Best Teacher
Study what works (and what doesn’t) in your genre by reading what has come before. It’s essential when treading unknown waters. For instance, if you’re writing a science fiction novel for the first time but you’re not well-versed in the genre, pick up some Arthur C. Clarke or Malka Older novels the next time you visit your favorite bookstore. Informational how-to books and articles are a great resource, but your best teachers will always be the writers who’ve already succeeded in their chosen genre(s). Plus, they’re way more fun to read!
3) We All Need Breaks
We may love working on our WIP, but at some point, we’ll need a break. Whether you believe in writer’s block or not, stepping away from your writing and taking time to enjoy someone else’s completed manuscript can be productive. Author Austin Kleon has written extensively about what he calls “productive procrastination,” which entails procrastinating on one project by working on another. This approach allows us to step away from a project for a bit, but instead of falling prey to yet another Netflix binge, we can refocus our energies on another project. This may not work for all writers (though I encourage everyone to test it out!), but one way to “productively procrastinate” is to simply enjoy a good book!
4) It Helps Us Remember Our “Why“
Many writers started as readers, the introverted kids who preferred the quiet of the library and the company of books to the loud playground full of people. As we grew older and gained responsibilities, we may have lost the habit of reading for the sake of reading. This is a shame because our love of writing ties directly to that early love of books. Now is a good time to regain that love of reading. It can remind us why we chose the complicated and often frustrating life of a writer: the wish that our words and worlds can affect others the way our young selves were affected consuming book after book in our school libraries.
5) It Gives Us Permission to Read Like a Reader, Not an Editor
When revising, we tend to think like editors, obsessing over every comma splice and tonal shift. We don’t consciously do that to anything else we read (unless you’re actively reading like a writer), but we have the tendency to be overly critical of our work while trusting the validity of other published works. By taking the time to read something other than your WIP, you will flex those reader muscles and start to view your novel through the lens of someone who’s merely reading it to enjoy it. Typos and plot holes should never be ignored, but have you ever asked yourself, “Do I have fun reading my work?” At the end of the fifteen months you gave yourself to write your novel, print out those pages, and find out. Don’t proofread, don’t make notes in the margins in red ink, don’t highlight a single sentence; just read.
But read like a reader. And only then— after all your planning, outlining, drafting, revising, more drafting, more revising, editing, and proofreading— will you know if you’ve written something other people will enjoy.