"It's what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." Oscar Wilde
Reading is one of the most beneficial activities we can do to improve our writing. It is through reading that a writer can discover new ideas, concepts, places, and people to enrich their own writing. Reading can expose us to new things, improve our understanding of the concepts, plots and characters of which we write, and help us gain experience. I have found that reading books within varrying genres, in different writing styles, on a multitude of topics has given me more exposure to writing than I could ever gain from a writing class (and I have an English degree!). I believe reading of this type can greatly influence our writing in a variety of ways:
Reading makes us better writers. When we read, our brain is given the ability to absorb new writing techniques and vocabulary which can keep our writing fresh and update our writing style for our readers.
Reading produces stronger analytical thinking skills. Reading helps us detect patterns, solve problems, and understand new information as if we were the main character. For example, that mystery novel you just finished, did you solve the mystery before the getting to the end of the book? If so, you put your critical and analytical thinking to work by taking note of all the details provided and sorting them out to determine who committed the crime.
Reading improves focus and concentration. In the age of social media and technology, our attention spans are getting shorter. Reading a book forces us to focus, unlike when we skim information while scrolling down our Facebook and Twitter feeds. We often divide our time between working on one task while also checking our email, chatting with a couple of people, keeping an eye on our social media updates, and constantly checking our phones for messages. This dramatically lowers our ability to focus which, as any writer can testify to, also dramatically lowers our ability to focus when we are writing When we read a book however, all our attention is focused on the story and we can submerge into every fine detail we are reading. This can help us raise our ability to focus more in our own writing.
Reading expands our vocabulary. The more we read, the more words we gain exposure to, increasing our ability to be articulate in our writing. Additionally, since our culture is continually adding new words reading can help us use the vernacular of our culture in our dialogue and can help us better relate to our current readers.
Reading gives us knowledge. Everything we read fills our heads with new bits of information, and we never know when it might come in handy. The more knowledge we have, the better-equipped we are to tackle any challenge we may face in our writing. Reading can also increase our emotional intelligence as we understand a range of perspectives and motivations. Seeing the world through the eyes of another gives us different perspectives of life in our world, which can deepen our own writing.
Whether you are a blogger, novelist, journalist, copy writer, or simply trying to make it through your next writing assignment for that class you’re in, talking the time to read someone else's words can help you do better with your own.