How Reading Makes You A Better Writer

I work with authors of all levels – and I work with a lot of entrepreneurs, speakers, and coaches who really want to get their message to the world. And it’s really clear in my work that they all fall into two categories:

Those who read and those who… don’t.

Here are some scary statistics about reading:


(Don’t be disheartened! Remember, you’re publishing your book for the minority of people who DO read.)

But what I see in my work editing for clients is that a huge number of them Do. Not. Read.

I don’t mean that they don’t read, as in can’t read. (And I’m not talking about people with disabilities that prevent reading.) I mean that beyond Facebook, Twitter, and the occasional HuffingtonPost article they don’t read!

And you might be thinking to yourself, I’m reading this article right now. Of course you are! You’re probably an avid consumer of short writing. After all, don’t all the “how to blog” statistics say:

  • Under 500 words
  • Use bullets
  • Break up text so people can skim
  • Use images to keep them engaged

And all this is very valid for how people quickly consume short writing. I couldn’t find statistics on it, but I’ll bet that people are reading short-form writing now more than ever.

There’s still a problem though…

Reading #books is the way to become a better #writer. Do you read? Click To Tweet

See, in every industry there’s a certain style of writing. Jump over to HuffPost and read a few articles – they all have a similar style, tone, and voice. Same with business, mommy blogging, crafting, fashion, celebrity gossip, self-help, religion, you name it. There’s a cannon that you conform to in order to be read in that industry.

(Even this article… Notice the shorter sentences, the smaller paragraphs, the bullets. All designed to conform to my industry’s standard.)

And in short-form writing (articles, blogs, etc.) this is PERFECT.

But, I hate to break it to you, a steady reading diet of this stuff might educate you or entertain you, but it’s the literary equivalent of only eating McNuggets.

When is the last time you read a book? A whole book? ANY book?

(In case you think I’m on a high and mighty horse, here, I’ll admit I’m guilty of this as well! I don’t consume books nearly as much as I should!)

I read a statistic years ago (and can’t find it to cite!) that by the time you’re 10 or so, you already “know” how to drive. I don’t mean the traffic laws or the good judgment, but you understand how to turn the wheel, accelerate, break, park, when to stop and when to go… Basic driving. You didn’t jump behind the wheel at 16 clueless – you already knew stuff.

Reading books is the same.

021015-LoveToReadBy reading books you learn grammar, sentence structure, flow, pacing, voice, impact.

But beyond that, you see how words come together to build pictures in your mind. You can see the poetry of words – the beauty of language JUST for beauty’s sake. You also see how different lengths of sentence add impact.

For some of us, reading is a guilty pleasure that gets shuffled off in favor of more “important” things. If you love reading, take it up again. Don’t look at it as recreation, but as training your literary muscles.

If you aren’t a reader but want to be an author… Friend, reading and writing are two sides of the same coin. Learn to love to read! Otherwise it’s like taking your car to a mechanic who doesn’t drive.

You don’t need to read for hours a day but you do need to make conscious choices about what books you do read.

Leave me a comment and tell me how reading has made you a better writer. And if you’re not sure, then tell me the last book you read – and how long ago that was!

PS: Next week I’ll give you some guidance on what types of books to read to become a better writer.

Kim Galloway
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