How important is reading to you?

writer

“Not every reader writes, but every writer reads.”  Attribution: Every writer I know (worth their salt).

It’s an important statement for a lot of reasons. A writer needs to be very familiar with the genre in which they write, as well as have a comprehensive understanding of the demographic for whom they write. How else can they do this, except by reading?

I know a lot of writers — published and unpublished, and I have direct contact with many more aspiring writers. I write a lot about writing, I talk a lot about writing, and I study writing. You could say (and I often do) that I live and breathe writing, and you’d be right. Writing, and everything related to it, is in the forefront of my consciousness, ALL THE TIME. What can I say? It’s my bliss.

But there would be no point to writing without someone to read. A real writer knows this. So when I hear someone who aspires to be a writer say: “Oh, I don’t read. I just don’t have the time,” I get a bit bristly. Now, I know that not everyone reads (as an avid reader and prolific writer my whole life, I was somewhat of an anomaly in my family-of-origin), but a writer choosing not read is like a swimmer wanting to finish the race without getting in the water. It just doesn’t make sense.

People read for all sorts of reasons, not the least being for pleasure. It’s a pastime unsurpassed by any other. Reading for pleasure takes you to another place in a way nothing else can.  It’s both journey and destination.

A writer needs to understand that. And what better way to understand it than to experience it first-hand? A successful writer hones their craft. They read, read, read. Then they write. And read some more.

To reject that process is to deny yourself the opportunity to grow and develop as a writer. Even entertaining the thought of not having a book (or two or three) on hand for those moments between, gives me chills. It’s the easiest, and most effective, way of engaging with my craft. To suggest I wouldn’t need to read seems… well, arrogant. Given that I’m a writer.

If you’re a writer, or you aspire to be a writer, reading is not an option. Not if you want to do anything with your writing.