To be a good writer, you must be a great reader.
At first glance and to the untrained eye, that concept may seem inaccurate and a little odd. However, most authors live and die by that creed – making sure that they implement an active and regular schedule of reading into their lives as they continuously polish their artistic writing skills.
Why is that the case? What role does your reading habits play in your attempt to enhance the quality of your writing?
Remember the Ballet Dancer
If you cannot see the value of active reading in a writer’s lifestyle, then perhaps you need to change your perspective. Instead of focusing too much on the keystrokes and word count, take a moment to focus on your mind on the artistic choreography of a well-developed ballet performance.
Think about the amateur ballet dancer who dreams of one day performing on a grand stage. As they work on developing their balance, footwork, and overall technique over time, would it be realistic to assume that they never observe it being done by others first?
When learning a new dance move, most people expect to first see and study it before they even begin to practice it on their own. Most choreographers break a performance down into 2 stages: one stage that shows students the routine step-by-step and then another stage that combines all the steps and showcases the full routine. Would it be realistic to think that a ballet dancer could perform a specific routine onstage without ever taking the time to see it performed first as an observer? Of course not!
The same principle applies to your writing. Regardless of genre or writing style, you cannot (and should not) expect success or growth in this industry by just diving in without taking the time to study and observe the “performances” of other writers. How else can you accomplish that goal without consistently reading the work of others who have “danced” on the literary stage before you?
Remember the Science Behind It
In addition to the practicality of reading to become a better writer, there are also scientific studies that have proven its value over the years. Research shows that the range of your vocabulary and the development of your cognitive skills are significantly impacted by your reading habits. If it is your goal to improve your vocabulary and take your cognitive skills and abilities to the next level, then wouldn’t it be wise to analyze your reading habits?
Keep in mind that we all were active readers once upon a time – especially when we attended grade school.
Do you remember those lovely days of grade school where active reading was a required part of your schoolwork? There were scheduled blocks of time for silent reading during school. You were assigned selections and passages to read as homework. You may have even gone to a school that assigned books to read during the summer months when school was out! Why?
Scientific research had already proven the lasting value of regular reading in the developing mind of a young child. It would be foolish to assume that this type of development just stops abruptly when you turn the tassel on your cap on the day of your high school graduation, right?
Above and Beyond the Realms of Writing
The benefits of an active reading schedule go far above and beyond the boundaries of your writing skills. How so? Think about the positive impact that reading has on your life in general. It can help you to overcome stress in a healthy manner – which will make it much easier for you to find joy in your work (including your writing).
It will help you to build and boost your creativity skills – allowing your imagination to take your writing to brand new worlds that you would not have been able to explore otherwise. More importantly, reading allows you to tap into an ongoing source of inspiration – a resource that is greatly needed to help you avoid the inevitable obstacle of writer’s block.
The Bottom Line: It’s Your Lifeline
It is true that many people view reading today as an option – something that they are no longer required to do as they were back in grade school. As a writer, though, you should view it as more than just a “workplace requirement.” You should view it as your lifeline – the cord that breathes life into your work and allows you to stay connected to your audience in a way that those who only view it as an option never will.