Should Writers Read?

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Yet again, I saw someone ask this question on social media. “Do you think a writer needs to read?”

Yes, I do. But I’ll admit that I know a small handful of brilliant writers who read very little. They are moving. They are caring for elderly parents. They have a day job. They are building a business. They are working on their home. They are writing but they manage to squeeze in very little reading.

Me? I don’t think that I could pull it off. I’m a solid writer because I’m a voracious reader.

I was the kid who rode her bike to the library and then had to figure out how to fit all of the library book into her bike basket. Sundays were spent at my grandmother’s after church. We made lunch and then watched tv. Translation: She napped on the sofa and I read.

Even today I always have a book that I’m reading and an audio-book that I’m listening to while I do chores. Voracious. Reader. That’s me.

But I credit the fact that I read so much with the fact that I have any skill what-so-ever as a fiction writer. I’m not saying I’m brilliant but I am saying that my skill level is excellent given the amount of time I’ve spent actually writing fiction. Reading helps you internalize a certain amount of craft. You get a feel for language and how words go together. You develop some idea of what works in terms of introducing characters and creating a setting. You also learn what you don’t like and don’t want to do.

Reading also helps you get a feel for what books are already out there. Read what has been published in the last several years and you start to develop a feel for the market. What topics are already well represented and where are there gaps for your own work?

There are talented writers who don’t read. But there are a lot more writers who don’t read and probably should. That’s my opinion and I’m not likely to change my mind. I’m way too busy reading.