Why Writers Need to Read More Often
“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”- Oscar Wilde
For many writers, reading and writing are practices that go hand in hand. It makes sense that, to improve in your craft, you need to submerge yourself in literature and learn from the great writers that came before you.
So why do many writers spend most of their time writing?
This isn’t an assumption (at least not entirely). I recently finished reading Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, and what I found was surprising. Most — if not all — of the writers mentioned in the book spent most of their productive time writing.
The fact that they spent most of their time writing wasn’t surprising; the fact that reading wasn’t a major part of their productivity ritual was. Was I naïve to think reading was an important part of the writer’s life? I hope not.
In my experience, the only way to create content consistently is to keep reading. To be a constant learner. That’s my main reason for reading, but there are countless reasons for writers to read more often.
After conducting some research (aka Googling the phrase “benefits of reading” and surfing through a rabbit hole of articles), I found that there are 5 major benefits for writers to keep on reading:
1. To build your vocabulary
This one’s a little obvious, but the benefits are very real. Reading consistently is one of the better ways to develop your vocabulary. This benefit is especially meaningful for writers, as the craft itself depends on the writer’s skill with words. Simply put, the wider your vocabulary, the better you are at expressing yourself.
2. To expand your knowledge
“Once you learn to read, you will forever be free.” - Frederick Douglass
This one should be obvious to any writer who’s picked up a book on a random subject and bought it because “Maybe I want to learn about astrophysics.” (No? Just me?).
The point is, reading might not be your preferred way of learning, but it sure is a good one. Reading consistently is not only a great way to build your vocabulary, but to offer yourself a wealth of knowledge that can help you grow as a writer.
This very article was born from joy-reading Currey’s book!
3. To train yourself to focus
If there is one thing that stunted my academic growth in college, it was my inability to focus. As a literature major, you’d think I was used to reaping the concentration benefits of reading. The reality is that the pressure of a deadline can take all the joy away from reading.
This is where joy-reading comes in. Reading for pleasure on a consistent basis helps improve your memory and concentration.
4. To boost creativity and inspiration
“A book is a device to ignite the imagination.” - Alan Bennett
Need I say more? Reading to cure writer’s block is almost cliche at this point. Nevertheless, it works!
5. To wind down after a long day
Curling up with a good book after a long day is like giving your brain a bubble bath. It relaxes you and helps you wind down after a day of chaos out in the real world. Research supports this idea shows us that reading is a great solution to managing and reducing stress.
My intention is not to merely point out the benefits of reading in the hopes that you’ll pick up the habit for a few more days and then stop again.
The case I’m trying to make here is that reading should play a bigger role in the lives of writers. Not just for the inspiration that comes from reading other writers, but for the major benefits that it offers you as a writer.
Reading, no matter the genre, helps you become a better writer. It soothes the mind and opens you up to a world of knowledge and creativity that may otherwise be lost. It helps you train your focus and improve your craft.
Simply put, reading is an awesome way to grow. What better reason to pick up a book more often?