Reading as a Writer.

It’s interesting to me that around the internet I’ve read that some people style themselves as writers but to all intents and purposes, they don’t read. I find this strange because if you’re going to write, if you do write, and you don’t read – where are you finding the inspiration and love of writing and language from? Its not to say that if you don’t read much you can’t write, but in my experience and the seeming experience of other writers and authors, reading is as important as being able to string a sentence together. For me, reading is as essential as breathing. Some people might look at that sentence and think I’m crazy, but believe me, I would rather be a crazy book lady than give up my love of reading.

If you don’t read widely or within your genre, how do you know what is good writing and what is not so good, and what is definitely terrible? Or how do you understand what a good story is, what plot is and how the best characters are multi-dimensional and always have something flawed about them? Or even, what kind of writing speaks to you, what style you like, what form works best for you. In reading, I find inspiration, phrases that speak to me, words that nourish my imagination and help me when I’m despairing at that sentence I just can’t find the words for. Even when I’m writing something, I read – don’t believe those who say that reading other people’s work whilst writing will dilute your own voice. Even if it does, it is usually because there is something in that work that brings out something else in you, and all creative people know that inspiration can take you in many different directions – usually for the better. Books are where you learn the best and worst of writing. They are where you learn from those who have gone before you. It makes me appreciate the writing craft more, and it also makes me feel that other authors and writers have your back – don’t be envious, remember that they all believe in this craft of writing and that self belief is one of the most important traits to encourage in yourself. It isn’t a belief that you’re the best and you’re better than them – it is more a quiet belief that you CAN write this, that it is worth it, because you want it enough and no matter what anyone else thinks, this makes you happy.

Ever since my parents read to me – Winnie the Pooh, Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – I have found that reading is the magic that takes me away, that inspires me to write, that gives me something other than day to day life. Books are like travelling when you’re sitting still. They take your mind somewhere different everyday. Books contain a journey within them – a journey that is different for every single reader. Nobody gets the same thing from one book. That is why its such a pleasure when you can talk about a book with someone because you’ve read the same book, but you haven’t been on the same journey in the same way. It is like travelling to the same place but doing different things, in the same cafes, meeting the same people, but having an entirely different experience altogether. Sharing book recommendations is important – but if someone else doesn’t like a book and you love it, don’t take it too personally, because we all bring different experiences to the same book. Sure, this might seem like mumbo jumbo, but it’s the best way I know how to describe reading.

The more you read, the more you instinctively start to understand what works, why certain things lodge themselves in your mind and heart. This can only help you as a writer. It all gets churned up and comes back out as something amazing on paper. It gives you the spirit to keep going. Imagine your favourite author doing exactly the same thing as you, having similar issues with sentences and paragraphs, agonising over where the characters are going next. Many drafts later, this novel you are reading finally got published.

And if you can’t be bothered reading anything, you might want to ask yourself why you’re writing. If you haven’t read anything – there’s no time like the present! Reading is the best teacher you’ll ever have. If you have a library, it’s free.

If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.  ~ Toni Morrison

*Cross posted from Fate is Chance. Destiny is Choice.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Well said. I am a novelist and my love of writing definitely began as a love of reading. I read all the time, easily polishing off a 400 page novel in a weekend stretch. And eventually I got up the courage to actually seek publication of some of my own work. My debut novel is being released TOMORROW!!! It’s such a dream come true, but if I had never had a love of reading, I know I would never found myself where I am today, at last fulfilling a dream to say I’m a published author! Keep promoting books and everything they inspire us to do!

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    1. Liz says:

      Hi Joan, wow I’m so pleased for you! 🙂 I agree, a love of writing so often stems from a love of reading 🙂 I’m like you, I read all the time and I’m not happy without a book to read!

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      1. BTW, I absolutely love your cat! I don’t remember a time I didn’t have cats, and if I lived alone I know I’d be exactly like the proverbial cat lady (though I would make a point to not become an animal hoarder…that show is disgusting!!! 🙂 ) Your blog name is very original! I should have been more creative when I started mine. Well, happy reading!

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  2. Liz says:

    Ha, I would totally be a cat lady if I lived alone. Cats are amazing, as are books 😉

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  3. Cassie says:

    I completely agree with everything you just said. I believe you have to be well read in order to write because you have to know who, and what came before you. What are the classics saying? How can you break away from what they’re saying, or how can you copy-cat it? How can you be different, or new if you don’t know what’s out there. How can you have a style or a voice?

    It dishearten’s me. If you want to write, you should support other writers by reading. That’s my view.

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    1. Liz says:

      Exactly – when you’re a writer, you also read to find out where your writing slots in and what stories haven’t been told, especially in genre writing (I’m thinking here of genres like urban fantasy or horror or romance which are often over-saturated and need good ideas for a novel to sell well). Thanks for commenting, I like your blog! 🙂

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  4. So true. I wish I could tattoo your post on my eighth graders’ foreheads.

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  5. RT says:

    reading is too important.

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