Why Writers Must Also Be Readers
Being a student, a part-time dishwasher, and a moderate partaker of extra-curriculars, it can be a challenge to find time to write, let alone for leisure reading. When once I burned through books like Kleenex, polishing off novels in a day, high school has shoved reading so far onto the back-burner that until the holidays, I hadn't touched a book for weeks! I thought it was a luxury I just didn't have time for, that writing had to take priority, but the fact of the matter is that reading good books is just as important to writing as a notebook and pen.
Reading is research. This week I started Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles for the fourth time, and have again been blown away by this author's incredible talent. Her characters are so natural, all enriched with vivid personalities so personable and familiar they may as well be the people next door. Reading these novels is a learning experience that yields new lessons every time- and maybe that's why I can read them over and over again and still be inspired by the quality of the writing. I make note of the natural little gestures Meyer inserts into her conversations; I study her methods of guiding the plot, keeping the story flowing, avoiding dead spots; I find inspiration from her character- and world-building, inspiration I can incorporate into my own ideas. Without investigating the skills and styles of other authors, I would be stuck recycling the same words, phrases and characters over and over and over. When I feel that starting to happen, it's probably time for a good book to replenish the supply.
I admit that it can be difficult to make time for reading when it seems like writing the story is the most important thing, but sometimes, when I'm stuck, I can't just sit at my computer, banging my head against the keys until something strikes me. I need to step away for a bit, find things that inspire me, dive into a world another author has created and find what worked for them. Reading books keeps me from settling in a writing rut; it motivates me to try new techniques, expand my horizons, and widen my repertoire of words, phrases, gestures, characters and plots. Reading isn't just a luxury or a hobby- it's a necessary part of writing. Learning from authors who have gone before is a great way to make our stories all the richer, more colourful, and more complex. There are shelves upon shelves of great stories out there, and something to be learned from them all!
So, my New Year's Writing Resolution? Read more books this year! With great books, great pens, and God's inspiration, I may just be able to finish Book Two....