Post: Great Writers Are Great Readers

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What sparked your love of writing? There’s a good chance that your desire to tell a story started in another person’s written words. This goes back to one of the most basic truths of writing: great writers start out as great readers.

Reading is more than just your origin story as a writer. It is a practical and necessary part of the career path. Without basing your work on a foundation of reading for both joy and professional development, your chances of succeeding are slim to none. Here are just a few of the reasons why reading is necessary to the writing process.

1. There is no writing without reading

You cannot write to all readers, and there will always be some people who do not enjoy your books. However, if you do not read books in your intended genre and cannot identify what works and what areas need improvement, your own books are going to suffer as a result.

You can learn a lot just by reading critically. From pacing to plot to character development, when you read a lot, you’ll learn to recognize what keeps you drawn in and what makes you close your book. Think of it as field research for your own writing.

2. Grow your imagination and your vocabulary

Writers rely on their imaginations throughout virtually every step of the writing process. The great thing about reading is that it actually helps you grow, exercise and stretch your imagination. Not only are you getting some entertainment out of it, but some good brain exercise too!

You’ll also start to expand your vocabulary without sitting down and reading a literal dictionary. The words you pick up through context clues and usage in books will become part of your own writing soon enough.

3. Learn more about your own craft

Reading about writing is an excellent way to learn even more about your craft. Whether you’re interested in books about dialogue, character development or even editing your own work, you can find a book that goes into great detail on the matter.

If you’re not sure where to start, On Writing Well by William Zinsser or Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg are two great places to start. On Writing Well is specifically geared toward non-fiction, but many of its lessons translate easily to fiction.

4. Boost your brain health

Reading is not only a fun activity that is essential to writing, it is also great for your brain. Research has shown that reading uses a “complex network of circuits and signals in the brain.” The more you read, the more sophisticated and stronger those networks get. Reading books that explore a character’s inner lives is also a great tool for learning and increasing empathy.

5. Take a writing break

As a writer, you know just how dangerous it can be to take a break from writing. Even with a writing routine, getting back into the groove and creative mindset can be a challenge. But what happens if you continue reading even when you’re not writing? Reading keeps you engaged in the creative side of things, helping your brain stay active and prepared to dive back into what you love most—being a great writer.