On Writing: 5 Reasons Why Readers Make Better Writers (#IWSG)

It’s been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who doesn’t read is that all your ideas are new and original; that everything you write is an extension of yourself rather than a mixture of you and other authors.

No offense to whoever said that, but it is utter piffle. 

Piffle: A word I picked up while reading.

If there’s one thing I truly believe when it comes to being an author, it’s that readers undeniably make better writers. I literally can’t think of one great author who wasn’t at some time inspired or influenced by someone else’s writing, nor can I imagine a scenario where reading books wouldn’t benefit an aspiring writer—or any writer, for that matter.

I get it, though. In today’s world where everyone wants to be authentic and unique, and where instant gratification seems to be the modus operandi for many, this advice to skip reading can sound pretty appealing. But be very careful. Unique work doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good work.

By no means am I saying that ripping off someone’s writing is okay. What I’m saying is that reading actually facilitates one’s ability to create unique, extraordinary, masterful works of literary art.

Here’s How

1) Reading Greatly Expands Vocabulary

Reading is arguably the best way to grow your vocabulary because it exposes you to new words and expression—some you’ve never heard before, and some you have but perhaps never in context. Superior language skills set you apart from others and give you the ability to express your own ideas in so many different ways. Words are like colors; the more you have, the more creative you can be with them.

2) Reading Exposes Us To Better Writing Than Our Own

Set your ego aside, young grasshopper. Learn from the masters.

There’s a LOT of fantastic work and great talent out there, and exposing yourself to it will only make you a better writer. Enjoying and appreciating someone else’s writing is a great way to guide you in crafting a book others will love as well.

3) Reading Allows Us To Experience Things We Would Otherwise Never Experience

A book can send you twenty thousand leagues under the sea, or through a magical brick wall into a world of witches and wizards, or on a mission to save the world from a terrible virus that is threatening to wipe out humankind. You can be anyone or anything at anytime, past, present or future.

Books are magical things that allow you to experience things you’d never get to experience in real life. These experiences spark the imagination, producing new ideas and giving writers so much more to work with.

Even if you’re not into fiction, reading nonfiction can still make you a better writer. It introduces you to other people’s thoughts and experiences. This can help you see things from different perspectives, educate you on topics that interest you, provide fodder for more enlightened discussions within your chosen topic, and initiate new ideas that give your subject more profound meaning. Not only does it make your work more authentic, it also adds credibility to your writing.

4) Reading Helps Shape Our Writing Voice and Style 

When I was in high school, one of my teachers was able to pick out which elementary school I had gone to based solely on the way I pronounced a fellow student’s name. As she put it:

She was right. I had never noticed the accent before, nor had I picked up on the fact that only kids from that elementary school pronounced names like that. Neat.

In a sense, no one really has an “original” voice. The way we speak is a product of our environment. Without realizing it, we mimic our parents, friends, teachers, colleagues, even celebrities. Our speech is simply a collection of other people’s expressions, pitch patterns and accents which we’ve picked up over the course of our lives.

Reading has the same sort of influence on our writing. It gives writers more diversity, more tone, more edge. The more books you read from different authors — even within the same genre — the more it will help you cultivate and fine-tune your own writing voice and style. You won’t sound exactly like one or the other, but rather a combination of many which ends up becoming a voice that is unique to you, and you alone.

5) Reading Cures Writer’s Block

This theory has proven true for me time and time again. Whenever I hit a wall in my writing, the first thing I do now is turn to my all-time favorite books for inspiration AND/OR commit to reading a new book for something fresh. It’s curious how indulging in someone else’s writing can truly spark the life back into your own, but trust me, IT WORKS.

For one, it gives the writing part of your brain a break, allowing it time to rest and recharge. Secondly, reading triggers new thoughts, sparks the imagination, and reignites the passion that makes writing so fun!

I often keep my laptop near me while reading. Anytime a sentence or description jumps out at me, I jot it down. Sometimes it’s just one word, like piffle. It can be anything useful that might fit into my story, or conveys a thought or feeling I might want to use. Then I workshop these notes and wazzle-dazzle them into my own words. The end result is always totally different then where it started, and now I have a bunch of new material for my book.

white ceramic teacup with saucer near two books above gray floral textile

There are so many wonderful reasons to read. These were just my top five.

If you don’t know where to start, try Googling the Top 10 Best Sellers in the genre you want to write. Ask friends for suggestions. Go to your local library and find out what’s popular. Pick up a classic, or go back to something you read in high school and enjoyed. Join a book club, Goodreads  or Litsy. There are no wrong choices. The important thing is that you get started.

Once you do, you’ll never regret it.

Readers, what are your favorite books? What’s your favorite genre and why? If you could recommend just one book to someone, which would it be? Leave a comment!

I wrote this post as part of the monthly Insecure Writers Support Group #IWSG Blog Hop. To continue hopping through to other great blogs (and I highly recommend you do) or to join as  a fellow writer,  click here.

25 thoughts on “On Writing: 5 Reasons Why Readers Make Better Writers (#IWSG)

  1. Ashley Rebecca says:

    Couldn’t agree more! You’ve hit the nail on the head; writing is about everything that has come before and how you fit into that, it’s about heritage and legacy, and how can you write without that history. I totally agree with expanding your vocabulary too, everytime i come across a word I haven’t encountered before I write it down and look for a definition, bam, shiny new tool of expression. I also do the same as you with quotes that really strike me, they’re all written down in a notebook that I like to flip through and revisit from time to time. Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Samantha Bryant says:

    Totally agree about the importance of reading in a writing life. So far as favorites, I have some comfort books I go to when nothing else is pleasing me: Shirley Jackson, Emily Dickinson, Neil Gaiman. But mostly, I want to read all the things, so I don’t re-read much.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mlouisebarbourfundyblue says:

    Awesome post, Brigitte! I spent many years teaching second and third graders writing, as well as other subjects. One of the most important components of helping my students to become better writers was immersing them in good literature in a variety of genres. You cannot become a good writer without reading widely!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Susan M Gourley says:

    That was perfect. I have a few favorite authors that I turn to when I need inspiration. One for the flow of words, a few for characterization, and others for their way with dialogue. I couldn’t write if I didn’t read lots and lots.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. S.E. White says:

    To be brutally honest: that’s exactly why I didn’t answer this month’s IWSG question directly. I read it and thought “huh?” So I went off on a tangent instead of listing all these excellent reasons for reading, which you now have. So I can just agree with everything you say and leave it at that! LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jennifer Lane says:

    Piffle? I love that word! Thanks for teaching it to me. I’m not surprised it came from the great Diana Gabaldon.

    What an excellent top 5.

    “In a sense, no one really has an “original” voice. The way we speak is a product of our environment.”
    Very true–never thought of it that way. I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio, and I’ve been told that Cincinnatians have an accent. What? I say no. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Janet Crum says:

    Excellent post (and I enjoyed your voice and style here–will check out your work). IMNSHO not reading is choosing to stay ignorant. As writers, we’re all part of a storytelling tradition that stretches back for millennia, to cave people sitting around fires, licking the last of the grease off mastodon bones and passing the time on long, dark winter nights. To ignore that tradition, to ignore all that we’ve learned about storytelling, is wasteful.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Tyrean (@TyreanMartinson) says:

    I agree with all of your points. I am definitely a reader, just because I love it. But, it’s also a necessity as a writer. On a basic level, reading helps us understand narrative structure. It seeps into us over the course of reading many books in different genres. We find a voice, because as you said, we create one out of the many, many different experiences we’ve had and books we’ve read.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. aandj8804 says:

    Fantastic post! I think I listed all of those same reasons to why writers should read in my response to today’s IWSG question too. There’s no denying that reading makes people better … not just writers but humans.

    And now I need to go pick up a book… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ellen Jacobson says:

    A great argument for the importance of reading for writers! I could really relate to #5 – reading is a great way for me to refill my creative well.

    And I love the word “piffle” – need to find a way to work that into a conversation today 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Debbie Johansson says:

    You raise some good points and I agree that reading can cure writer’s block. I’m currently re-reading ‘Dragonwyck’ by Anya Seton. I discovered this book when I was ten which not only introduced me to the Gothic genre but made me both a reader and a writer. Thanks for this post, Brigitte – it’s good to meet you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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