I thought of this post as a piggyback off the post I did a little while back called, "Make Time to Write!" I can't claim full credit for the idea, as a fellow author had recently posted in a discussion thread what is perhaps a little-known fact: that once we - authors - really get enmeshed in the business of being an author, we find it very difficult to actually read what our fellow authors are writing anymore! I read her comment and sat back and chuckled, because it is a very true statement. I know I'm speaking for many an author out there, but I think it's fair to say that authors love to read. Of course we do! Why else would we be writing stories of our own? But the tasks that surround first taking a story idea from conception to completion, then revising and producing it, followed by selling and promoting it, make for very little time to do other than those things. As I touched on in my previous post, it can be difficult enough to find the time to do that very quintessential thing which is writing. Sitting down to engross ourselves in any sort of leisure reading, therefor, tends to go out the window in a pinch.
But this is something that must not happen. If you consider yourself a writer of any sort, you must always make time to read!
Reading is one of the most important ways we hone our craft. As a teacher, I can always pick out my readers in my classes as the readers will almost inevitably be better writers. I have found over the years that people who don't read don't know how to craft engaging sentences, they don't know how to bend words to their needs, they don't understand, and therefore cannot utilize, the intricate subtleties of language. Writing is in large part imitative, and as writers, we first seek to emulate other writers we admire. And there is nothing wrong with that, in fact, it ought to be encouraged! I have never ascribed to the theory that everything we need to create a masterful work already exists within us. Rather, I believe writers are all born with an innate talent and predisposition for writing, but that writers must look outside themselves to learn the craft and hone it. Much like in physical disciplines such as martial arts, writers must also learn from a master, and it will only be after a great deal of "wax on, wax off" that a unique, creative voice will emerge. Once you know the craft, then you can really have fun with it! My creative writing students often don't like to hear this, but with the exception of a few creative geniuses, it will always hold true that most of your early writing will be little more than practice and imitation.
This is why writers must always read. Not only is it enjoyable and relaxing, but it helps with the ongoing task of learning how, and how not, to write. And if your time for leisure reading, like mine, is short, just be exceedingly choosy about your choice of reading. I've said it before, but I mainly only read books in the same genre in which I write - to see what's out there in the market, to see what "the kids" are reading, and to see what I find to be effective and ineffective writing (and storytelling, but that is often a different thing entirely!). So remember, "wax on, wax off!" Make time to read.