“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.”
Reading is one of the great pleasures of the writer’s life. As a reader, you get to explore the wonderful books other writers have written. You get to read the words, turn the pages, and imagine the images your reading inspires. Whether it is fiction or non-fiction, you’re reading because you like reading and probably wish you had more time to read. While you read, it not only inspires you and gives you new ideas, but you will also see how other writers manage the skill of writing. How they write a dialogue and, descriptions, the way their characters behave, how to write in first or third person, and so on. Read as much as you can. Stephen King reads between 70-80 books a year and admits he is a slow reader. In his book On Writing:-A Memoir of the Craft, he says,
“ If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
At the same time he mentions that not all writers read. A good reason for this can be that the writers fear undue influence. You can read a lot more about this by reading "The Excitement of Influence" in the new anthology Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching by Anna Leahy. That is a very good point. Are you a reader? Then keep reading. If you are not, then don’t. Apparently, it works both ways. The most important part is to get your writing done, one way or the other.
So what should you read? It is very natural that you read the genre you yourself like to write. This will give you an idea of how other authors manage, for example, the romance genre, and you’ll get a feeling of what is happening in your field. But at the same time it is a very good idea to read more broadly as well, even nonfiction if you are a fiction writer. You will learn from every book you read – the good and the bad – and some will inspire you when you least expect it (so ALWAYS keep pen and paper close to you and write down every thought and idea you get while reading).
Here are three recommendations for aspiring writers :
Stephen King: On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft
Anne Lamott: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Jurgen Wolff: Your Writing Coach – From Concept to Character, from Pitch to Publication
“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.”
How has reading helped your writing? Share a comment below.