Sunday, 1 May 2011

Writers Read

"If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."
Stephen King

There was an interesting thread on the Kindle Boards the other day. Someone asked a question. To paraphrase: "Now that you are writing for Kindle, do you find your reading habits have changed?"

I was completely gobsmacked by the number of authors who said they don't read! Seriously, are you kidding me? How can you not read?

That's like an electrician not taking coding classes to stay up with the latest electrical codes and safety advise. Excellent way to get oneself electrocuted.

Or a teacher not taking continuing education. A surgeon not attending seminars or watching other surgeries.

Every profession which requires a certain skill set also requires that those skills be continually honed through practice and instruction. Otherwise those skills, like unused muscles, grow flabby and useless and eventually that person can no longer do his or her job effectively.

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.

- Richard Steele

Writers are no different. If you don't read, how can you possibly stay in touch with what is happening in your genre? How can you know what your audience is reading and loving?

Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.

- Harry S. Truman

Besides which, you can learn so much from reading. A well written book can teach you how to write well. A poorly written one can teach you what NOT to do. And any book can inspire all sorts of exciting ideas.

The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.

- Dr. Seuss, "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!"

If nothing else, reading recharges our brains, relaxes our bodies and allows us time away from the "real world". We can come back an approach our own writing renewed and refreshed.

To my mind, and effective and interesting writer must be an avid and voracious reader. Reading is the best tool we have, besides sheer practice, for honing our craft.

Read, read, read.

- William Faulkner

What are you reading today?


  1. "I was completely gobsmacked by the number of authors who said they don't read!"

    I completely agree, and I've noticed lately that the number of writers seems greater than the number of readers.

    Within the last year, a magazine demanded a book receipt along with any manuscript submissions. Maybe if Amazon gave higher royalty rates to those who bought books as well...

    And I'm reading Zoo City by Lauren Beukes. Interesting read so far. Recommended.

  2. Hi, I saw that on KB, too.

    A couple years ago, Janet Evanovitch told a RWA luncheon that she didn't read either. The room fell silent. She said it interfered too much with her own stories in her head.

    I still think about's not even that I'm judgmental...more like...confused. Wouldn't you rather read than anything else?

    Writing without reading is like talking without listening.

  3. Hektor - That's a great idea. If you buy books you get 80% royalties! haha

    Gretchen - I saw Janet Evanovich, too. It was, ahem, a "few" years ago back in Portland. I do remember her saying something about not reading. Though at the time she made it sound like it was only when she was writing. I've since read otherwise.

    Honestly I can't fathom it. I absolutely agree...
    "Writing without reading is like talking without listening."

    Love that.

  4. Oh, and Hektor, thanks for mentioning Zoo City. That looks really interesting.

  5. "Writing without reading is like talking without listening."

    There are plenty of people who do this as well :).

  6. Thanks for appreciating my early Sunday morning pithiness. I think I came up with that all by myself--but given my poor memory, I may have stolen it and don't remember.

    Ironically, I talk too much. My husband is a much better listener. But I read like crazy.

  7. I remember Stephen King saying that if you're not the kind of person to bring a book to the toilet, then you might want to think about another career!

  8. LMAO! Well, I'm definitely in the right career then.

  9. Great post! As wife reminds me when I'm blah about writing, "If you don't use it, you lose it" and reading other people's work is very much a part of that.

    Of course, she still balks at the idea of taking a Kindle to the toilet, but I tell her it always washes it's hands.

    Me on the other hand...

  10. I'm glad I didn't see that thread on KB. I try to stay positive on there, and I don't think I could have resisted saying something inflammatory.

    But I think poets are even worse. A lot of people call themselves poets without knowing even one contemporary poet.

  11. Hey, I know Dr. Suess! (LMAO!) I'll be the first to admit my complete lack of poetic skills.

    I didn't comment on that one, either. I just couldn't think of anything to say that wasn't, um, terribly impolite. I mean, can you imagine if a musician said, "Oh, yeah. I never listen to music. I don't have time."

    Say what?