We’ve all been there: sitting with a notebook in hand, ready to write the next big piece, but nothing comes. Not a single word. You might think it’s a case of writer’s block you have to push through, and you’re right. You absolutely should push through, but you should also take a moment to consider the benefits of setting your pen down and picking up a book instead.
Whether you write poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction, the one thing we all have in common is a love of reading; but for some reason we forget that reading is just as important to the writing process as the actual writing. This may be because reading exercises our writing skills in some fairly subtle ways.
- When you pick up a book you are simply taking a break from your own writing to study the work of other authors, hopefully authors whose work you admire. It’s incredibly important to be reading work related to the area you want to focus on, even if it includes five different genres of fiction. I personally like to write chick lit, mystery, and essays or memoirs, so of course I read those genres. It’s a way to study the technique of the genre and hopefully discover new ways to rework it in your own mind.
- Every creative writing professor I have had for class has said at one time or another that we should all be stealing ideas from authors. Of course they don’t mean literally copying the plot of a book, but stealing ideas about form and characterization as well as other elements of creative writing. For instance, if you admire the way an author plays with point of view you might also attempt a similar form. We should be taking inspiration from the texts we read and applying what we’ve learned to our own writing. For example, I try to convey a similar lighthearted voice in my protagonists that I see in various chick lit novels (Sophie Kinsella is a personal favorite of mine).
- This is perhaps the most important reason to keep reading, yet often times the most overlooked: when you keep a wide variety of reading material you begin to understand what makes a text good. You can tell the difference between a well-structure, intelligent plot and a plot that was just thrown together. You can examine what makes an author’s style effective versus exemplary. There are millions of different books out there, each with its own positive and negative qualities for you to study.
These are only three of the reasons it is important to continue to read passionately, for it is through reading that we develop our own personal tastes and styles. We all were inspired to write because of another writer, and what better way to maintain our passion than to read our favorite authors’ work?
If you’re stuck in a rut and looking for some good reading, here are some of my personal recommendations.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (you know what, just read everything by her)
Dog On It (the entire collection) by Spencer Quinn
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
And of course the Harry Potter series is a must read.
Meet the blogger:
MEGHAN O’BRIEN recently graduated from Hamline University with a BA in English and a BFA in Creative Writing. She enjoys writing fiction and binge watching various shows on Netflix. She one day hopes to become a published author or at the very least be employed.