I once asked my dad why he taught me how to read when I was only a bit older than 3 1/2 years. His answer was: “Because you wanted me to.” I laughed and told him: “I don’t remember I was able to talk back then, how would you know? And he replied:” When I was reading, you often climbed on my lap and wanted to see what held my attention. And I understood you well enough.”
By the time I was four years old, I could read fluently (which threw my kindergarten teacher entirely off balance – but that’s a story for another time).
My father helped me understand my early fascination with the written word. I was never a great artist in drawing and painting, but I found out I could show a scene – any scene, simply by using words.
Of course, being four years old, I wasn’t that much into writing yet. But I read whatever I could get a hold of, even the daily newspaper. With six, I had left the picture books far behind me. When I was five, I was enrolled in school with special permission because I was simply bored in kindergarten. But even in my first school years, when the other kids just discovered the alphabet, I had a good time looking out the window until my teacher realized it would be a good idea to let me read to avoid getting bored.
And one day, our first essay was due while the other kids howled; I found myself ecstatic! I had discovered that I could write stories, not only read them, and the future writer was on her way.
I never lost my fascination with the written word, neither one of other writers nor mine. I keep reading as often as I can, the one or other book I read once a year.
Until this day, I’m convinced all the reading during my childhood and teenage years have formed me in many ways. And that’s why I think writers should never stop reading for many reasons. I’m trying to list here only a few of them.
Reading helps us with
vokabular, wpeling and gramer vocabulary, spelling and grammar.
I firmly believe, the more often and intensely we read, the more we pick up on the spelling and grammar, and we extend our vocabulary. Every writer has a unique style of painting a story with words, and subconsciously we memorize their use of words.
Reading helps us with our health
It is clinically proven that reading helps with:
- Stress relief
- Improving memory
- Reduction of possibility to get Alzheimer’s
- Increased empathy
- Reduces depression
The written word is our world
We love stories. We love the written word, we love other worlds, and we enjoy improving our imagination by diving into the unknown… we can experience adventures without even leaving our living room and with a cup of hot tea next to us. That’s where we belong.
To see samples of work
Oh, I know, that point needs some explanation. Of course, when we have a book in front of us, we look at a work sample from another writer. (Known or unknown doesn’t matter at all). But we can find out what we can ‘tolerate,’ what we are unable to swallow, what we like, what we don’t, what we enjoy, and what we love and adore.
Do we judge? Not necessarily. We are, in many cases, just finding out what works for us. Let me give you a brief example. I’m generally not a huge fan of Sci-Fi. Many purely technical explanations in space ships drive me up the walls. My technical understanding is limited, and I want to read how the story progresses. I don’t give a hoot with how many ‘Mach’s that space ship speeds through the universe and what the specially developed exhaust muffler does and does not do for the reusable energy in the ship… That doesn’t mean the book is terrible; it just means I don’t need those technical manuals included in the story.
Also, time-traveling can have its traps. I read too many stories where the accepted paradoxes made it hard to continue reading through the end. (That’s also a reason why I’m not a ‘Back to the Future’ worshipper). And I know, you can crucify me now; it’s a classic – I love Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox! I think they’re both great. But the paradoxes permitted in the script are not ‘my thing.’ Millions of people love those movies, and they’re most likely pretty good. They’re just not for me.
In reading stories, we can find out what works for us and what doesn’t. It might help us go through our story without stepping into those traps.
Reading stimulates our imagination
The more we read, the more our fantasy and imagination are tickled. We can even extend our ability to imagine things by consciously concentrating on doing so. When you read a thrilling scene, even a fight, try to imagine how that scenery would look ‘as a movie’… concentrate not only on the two faceless characters… remember how they were described to you at the beginning of the book. Please give them a face, dress them in their respective clothing, picture their weapons, the smell, the heavy breathing, the sweat, maybe the blood, the scenery around them! Focus on the particular event… and try to do that whenever you can – that is ‘living’ the book you read. If you’re practicing that often enough, it suddenly stays with you, automatically, without any further effort.
I’m quoting George R. R. Martin here, the writer who gave Jojen Reed his voice:
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
(P. S. George Raymond Richard Martin is an American novelist and short-story writer, screenwriter, and television producer. He is the author of the series of epic fantasy novels A Song of Ice and Fire, which was adapted into the Emmy Award-winning HBO series Game of Thrones.)
Permit yourself to be influenced
Reading is a good thing for writers. I heard a few writers say they don’t read because they want to focus solely on their own work. In my opinion, that kind of thinking is wrong. We can learn so much about structure, character- and plot building, writing techniques when we read. Why close up to that influence? It can help us!
Of course, by reading other authors’ work, we should try to understand what we can take and what is a good influence on our own writing. We’re not off to copy another writer’s work!
But none of us is going to discover the ‘Sorcerer’s Stone’ with our writing. (Oh well, maybe J. K. Rowling did) … but we can accept that our work can be positively influenced by what we read. A good example is a good example, is a good example.
Read other writer’s work and make them read yours
It’s easy to expect readers to stumble upon your books. But maybe that doesn’t happen. Other writers can help you with your work! They can advise you with difficulties, help you by offering to be your beta readers; they can recommend your books to their readership. They can help, read, review, support, encourage, guide, and so much more!
But in return: don’t expect anything that you aren’t willing to give back! It’s up to you to help others as well. And you sure will find hidden treasures (and not so hidden ones too!). Some authors will give their books for free if you help them. Please do the same for them! You’ll be surprised about the support you get.
And that’s why I recommend writers read as often and as many books as possible!
Of course, one or the other will refuse.
- I’m too busy
- I cannot afford books right now
- I never have even one minute to relax
There are a million other excuses. Take the time to read, take the time to relax. If not, you’re going to end with a heart attack, and you won’t be able to write another word. You can get plenty of books for free from other authors when you take the time to write a review or Beta read (see above).
Read – and you’ll be rewarded in so many ways!