I Read to Write

It’s true. I do read more than I write. What do I read? Just about everything.

“But,” you say, “I am a writer. How does a good reading habit help me write?” Not only does it help you write, it helps you be creative in every way you are creative.

Read to Be Creative

In a course on Creativity and Innovation, we discussed how Creatives said that reading outside of their field helped them in their own particular field. What? I have a degree in English and History. I don’t stick to these topics when I read. I read about biology, and medicine, and physics, and mathematics, and gardening, and current events, and motorcycles, and … you get the idea. What do I get from reading outside of my field? Ideas! Information! Another way to look at the world! I get to see how people in other fields think!

I’ve talked about writing prompts - what a great way to jolt your creative juices and get you writing. Most writing requires some sort of research. Writing a historical novel requires vast amount of research; you need to read, read, read before you can write. I’m a nonfiction essayist; I do a lot of research in writing my pieces. For example, I am writing an essay about a trip I took to New Mexico and a night of star gazing. I want to include ideas and spiritualism incorporated into the belief system of indigenous peoples of New Mexico. I need some context, so I am reading a book about this topic. It’s an essay where I am the central figure, but it is also about a topic I don’t know a lot about - there I go diving into a book about spiritual practices of the people of New Mexico.

Read for a Model

Reading really good examples of a genre can help you hone your own writing. It’s an apprenticeship of sorts. Reading Stephen King is like a master class in story telling. Virginia Wolff teaches how the mundane detail leads to the beautiful bigger picture. Reading Erik Larson shows how you can take dry facts and turn them into an excellent story about historical events.

Writing programs are not just Writer’s Craft and workshopping your pieces. You do a lot of reading of other writers. You read them and dissect them to discuss what the author is doing and what makes it so successful. Breaking it apart to take a deep dive into how the writing works allows you to incorporate these lessons into you own work. Someone can tell you about good writing, but reading examples of good writing shows you how it can be done successfully.

Read Like a Writer

Reading like a writer is a more active way of reading than just sitting down and reading. (But I do think there is a lot of value of reading a book just for the enjoyment of reading). I guess, that reading like a writer is similar to reading for a model. In school I’m sure you were taught things like foreshadowing, the five points of plot, characterization, and symbolism. Reading like a writer is sort of like bringing back all those Freshman English class concepts and applying them as you read. Making predictions, watching how a character develops, looking for shifts in tone are all aspects of reading like a writer. I think if you approach everything like this for ALL of the reading you do, it would get very tiresome and tedious. But I think all readers do this to some extent, consciously or unconsciously. Reading like a writer is doing these things with purpose and intent.

6 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All