Good readers make good writers, so it’s important to include dedicated reading time in your schedule to bolster your vocabulary, help you unwind, and expose yourself to great writers.
Good writing is so much more than just typing words into your computer or onto the page. To be a truly great writer, you need to work and improve your craft through research, practice, and dedicated reading time. You might think a writing coach like me would only assign writing exercises as homework, but I believe that reading a book can be every bit as worthwhile as a writing assignment.
Make time to read
You are busy, and finding time to write can be difficult enough, but you shouldn’t let your reading pile stack up. When you’re feeling stressed or crunched for time, reading can be an effective activity to help you step away and re-center yourself. Studies show that just 30 minutes of dedicated reading time will do more to reduce stress levels than more traditional remedies like going for a walk or having a calming cup of tea. Any writer or writing coach will tell you that writing while stressed rarely results in quality content. If your writing feels forced or you find yourself in the throes of writer’s block, pick up a book, unwind a little, and find inspiration.
Start by setting aside 30 minutes every day to read a good book. It can be during your lunch break, right before bed, or first thing in the morning. It may seem impossible to squeeze 30 minutes of reading into your busy schedule, but if you want to improve as a writer, you need to make the time to read.
Active readers have more diverse styles and vocabularies
Who needs a thesaurus when you have a good book? When you read a book, you are exposed to new words that you either understand in context or are compelled to investigate further. Whether you make the conscious choice to absorb the words or simply expose yourself to new words, you might find you’re incorporating them into conversation or your writing.
Great writers read for enjoyment, but also to critique what works and what doesn’t work. A serious writer will also expose herself to different voices and a variety of writing styles. Avid readers will be constantly exposed to interesting subject matter told in various voices that can open their minds up to new ideas, which can be translated to their own writing. A great book can influence your writing style, inspire you to try something new, and fuel your desire to write. If you don’t read new and challenging material, you will have a hard time improving your own writing.
Read outside of your genre
While it’s useful to read books within your own genre to get a sense of what other writers are doing, you should also diversify your reading list. Nonfiction writers do not have to stick to nonfiction books! In fact, reading novels can help cultivate creativity and even stir up memories of personal experiences. It’s very important to read books both for work and for pleasure. In fact, the article “This is your brain on Jane Austen, and Stanford researchers are taking notes” on the Stanford University website profiles a study that shows different areas of the brain are activated when you read for leisure and when you read for study.
If you were to hire me as a writing coach, I guarantee I will recommend dedicated reading time be included in your daily schedule. Good readers make good writers, and I encourage you to do everything you can to be an excellent writer.
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