14 reasons why writers need to read

It’s depressing as both an editor and a writer when I hear writers (or more usually aspiring writers) saying they don’t read. Getting books out into the world is difficult. It’s a huge amount of work for both publishers and writers and the only way it’s possible is if there are people out there who read. If you are a writer who doesn’t read the work of others, what would make you imagine that others would want to read your book?

Writers have to read:

1. Because reading is your world

Imagine a chef who hates to eat, an artist who’s never been to a gallery. It’s not credible — neither is a writer who doesn’t read.

2. Influence is good

Sometimes writers tell me they don’t read because they don’t want to influence their work. This is the height of arrogance and flawed thinking. No one creates ex nihilo. No one is that original. Of course you shouldn’t be copying others or never finding your own voice, but what has gone before you is a treasure trove. Tradition and inspiration are all around you in books. You can learn structure, technique and so much more by reading. We become innovative by building on the past, not by writing it off.

3. For the love of language

Great writers are those who have found wonderful ways to use language Their language might be supple or taut and honed. It might be rich or lyrical. It might be rhythmic or urgent. You will discover an infinite kaleidoscope of vocabulary and style in the pages of books written by others.

4. To encourage imagination

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “14 reasons why writers need to read

  1. this is also for all the parents who say that they don’t have time to read and then complain that their child doesn’t read!

  2. Great post, Jan. Writing is reading.

  3. James Skinner Jenkins

    Agree wholeheartedly. I confess as a culprate writer but low on reading. However, I do devour magazines and other written media. By the way, I’m 80 years old and have now given up writing.

  4. I find it very telling that some people in book clubs often comment the night before they are meeting that they haven’t read the book yet. Are there many who find themselves at odds with reading the group’s chosen work? Also the books often come with work sheets like in school. Does reading then become a chore rather than an enticing escape? Does it take all the joy out of it?

    • janfortune

      Yes – I think it can make books a ‘chore’ – it’s a hard one as authors hope groups will read their books and create a buzz, but it does schoolify 🙂

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