All writers know that reading is important. We do all know that, right? I mean, seriously, if you don’t know that, you might want to stop writing right now. Seriously.
There are so many reasons, but I’ll try to limit it to 6:
- It’s Learning!
- It Creates Connections
- It Supports Authors and the Book Market
- It’s Fun
- It’s Inspiring
- It’s the Perfect Antidote for Loneliness
When you do something you’ve never done before, whether it’s a hobby or career, there’s a bunch of stuff you have to learn. When I started my nail art blog, I read blog posts, watched tutorials, and Googled until my eyes burned. I had to learn how to file properly, clean up my cuticles, and apply polish correctly (Yes, there’s a wrong way.). Point is, I learned by seeing how others do it.
Same with reading.
Want to write a fantasy book? Read some Neil Gaiman and see how he does it. Want to be the next Stephen King? You’ll never get there if you’re not reading him! (Not that I think anyone could get there. He’s a genius.) Find an author that’s doing what you want to do. Find authors that do what you don’t want to do. See what works and what doesn’t.
Ponder things like, why did Rainbow Rowell choose to start Eleanor & Park with a glimpse of the ending? Ponder things like what is it about Janet Evanovich‘s style that makes her voice and characters so unique and funny? But also ponder things like why is Anna Karenina so boring? (Most of my book club couldn’t get through it.) And if everyone dislikes it so much, why is it still so popular?
Pay attention to what other authors do. Plus, if you’re reading non-fiction you can actually, like, learn stuff! So maybe read some books on writing. Or all of them.
My prime reason for belonging to a book club. When you find someone who has read the book you love (or hate), there ensues enlightening conversations.
Talking about books is also a great way to discover new books. Sometimes my friends recommend books. I trust my friends. And even if I wasn’t thrilled with the book blurb, I’m much more likely to read something that initially didn’t interest me because I know I’ll have a friend to discuss it with. Like Game of Thrones. I have multiple people telling me on a regular basis to read it. I have little desire, but I probably will at least read the first book, if for no other reason than to say, “I did!”
Books connect people. When I meet new people, I’m more interested in what they’re reading than what they do. And I know who my reader friends are. I hunt these people down and force them to discuss my latest book crush ad nauseam.
Remember that whole Twilight thing? Or that Hunger Games thing? Or go back further, that Harry Potter thing? People connected because of books. Like how when I was at the zoo and saw a random girl wearing a blue shirt that said, “Okay? Okay.” I almost ran up to her doing the Nerd Fighters hand sign and hugged her. (I didn’t. But I was very tempted. It did make me smile though.)
Let’s face it. Books are a business. They’re art, but all art at some point will be or will attempt to be sold. Artists have to live, too. When you buy a book, a bookstore is happy. That makes a publisher happy, which makes an agent happy, which makes the author happy. If you’re an author, you want to be happy. You want people to buy your book. So! Don’t download them illegally, buy them and support the market that you are so desperately hoping supports you.
To create enjoyment for your readers is (hopefully) one of the reasons you write. Reading is an escape, it’s entertainment, it’s like living another life in another world. It’s dreaming awake. It’s getting so wrapped in the pages that you forget where you and when you are, and when you emerge hours later, it takes time for you to return to your body.
Sometimes you need a break from writing. You need to recharge your imagination. Pick up a book and go lost somewhere for a while. Poetry especially can be great inspiration for world building.
Your favorite books become like old friends. You imagine a character and a place and you can go there anytime and hang out with those characters. When I pick up a book, I don’t usually think, “Let’s see what Veronica Roth wrote next.” But I will almost always think, “I wonder what Tris and Four are doing right now?” And it will drive me from whatever else I might be doing until I can open the book and find out.
If you want to read more, but need some visual motivation, check out the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Set a goal and update it when you finish book. It gives you pretty page with the covers of the books you read and tells you if you’re behind, on track, or ahead in your goal. I have a widgety thing in my footer that updates. I’m 5 books ahead on my 74 book goal for 2014!