Reading is what makes a reader wants to become a writer. While it may seem to many of you that I am stating the obvious, this is worth reminding still. Indeed, I have heard students attending my workshops say that they ‘should read’, the way one might speak of doing their tax return, ironing their clothes or having a dental check-up. As baffling as this may sound, many aspiring writers do not always make the obvious and crucial connection between reading and writing, hence this post.
Reading is not only the best way to engage with the world, stimulate your curiosity, and open your horizons, it is the single most important learning process for a writer, the caveat being that you do not read with the view of copying a style, rather, to explore stories and, in the process, develop your imagination.
You cannot write without reading. One feeds the other. Reading broadens your horizons and exposes you to an endless variety of topics, stories, plots, and character developments. Extensive reading helps you develop your writer’s instinct, that positive, internal voice alerting you to the fact that your piece does not quite work, that a passage needs a complete reshuffle, and a character is not fully-formed. If you haven’t been exposed to many different sorts of villains while reading fiction, how will you know what makes a great one, for one thing, and, for another, how will you know if your version does not work? Writing without an extensive reading experience, is akin to attempting to drive a car while being blindfolded, an experience which is bound to be painful, frustrating, and to end badly.