Does reading makes you a better writer?

As a general rule, I think everyone’s writing process is valid. There’s no one right way to write! Whatever way helps you get word on a page is valid.

That said, I’m always baffled when I talk to writers who say they don’t read.

In my mind, writing and reading go hand in hand. After all, writing is meant to be read. And, like many others, my love of writing was borne of my love of reading.  All readers may not be writers but the idea of a writer who doesn’t read — be it books, articles, anything really — just doesn’t make sense to me.

To each their own, I suppose.

Still, even if it’s not necessarily your favourite pastime, there are lots of great reasons to give reading a chance. This is especially true if you’re a writer, regardless of where you are in your creative journey. The truth is simple: the more you read, the better your own writing will get.

6 ways reading makes you a better writer

It introduces you to new and different ways of writing

Whether you’re writing a novel, an essay, or web copy, there are lots of different ways to get your ideas across. Some make more sense depending on what you’re working on. Should your story be in first or third person? What voice, tone, and vocabulary will resonate best with the intended audience of your article? Reading widely will help get you out of your comfort zone by showing you different methods in action.

It expands your vocabulary

Not that long ago I got a book out of the library that hand dozens of words underlined throughout the pages. It was clear by the words  — complex or unusual terms — that whoever had done the underlining had been identifying vocabulary they weren’t familiar with. Reading is excellent for not only introducing us to new words, but for showing us how those words can be used in context.

It helps you recognize the difference between good bad writing

When I was younger, I worried I had no taste; I seemed to enjoy everything I read and nothing really stood out to me as better or worse than anything else. But the more I read — be it books, essays, academic articles, or blog posts — the more I started noticing the difference. Why? Because I had a frame of reference. Now when I write, I’m able to reflect on examples strong vs weak writing, and I can apply what I’ve learned to my own work.

It establishes a standard for what your industry is looking for

I think a lot of writers — especially those who are relatively new to the craft — like to imagine themselves as the exception to the rule. We nurture this fantasy of defying expectations and creating something so out-of-the-box that it  — and by proxy, we — will become an instant and undoubted success. As cool as that would be, industry standards exist for a reason. Reading in your genre/medium will give you a sense for what kind of stories perform well with your desired audience. Besides, there’s something to be said for knowing the rules before you break them.

It teaches you things

This one is pretty self explanatory. Whether it’s subject matter research or simply studying how another writer accomplishes something you admire, you can learn a lot from reading! 

It inspires you

I think most of us have had the experience of reading something that has inspired us to sit down and start writing. Maybe it was an incredible story or a moving piece of poetry. Perhaps it was a thought-provoking article or even something that made you think, “I could do better than that”. Reading is an excellent source of inspiration for writers, and lucky for us, it’s a well that never runs dry!

Can you think of any other ways that reading makes you a better writer? Tell me all about it in the comments!

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Diana Dors says:

    Sara, you have nailed the many reasons why.
    Reading is essential.
    Reading is learning.
    Reading is an escape.
    How can anyone call themselves a writer if they are not a reader?

    1. Sara Harms says:

      Right? Furthermore, what drives a person to WANT to write if they don’t also read? I won’t lie, I’m instantly suspicious of anyone who makes this claim.

  2. M.L. Davis says:

    I agree completely. I read all the time, and it constantly helps me to recognise mistakes I’ve made in my own writing, and inspires me to improve. Fantastic post x

    1. Sara Harms says:

      Thank you! Reading truly is a great way to study our craft.

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