3 Reasons Great Writers Must Read!

Aside from the need to write an advised minimum of 10,000 hours, voracious reading is a significant requirement of the great writer.

Many of the greats say so…Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, Maya Angelou, Lamott, Gilbert, Gaiman…. Each of these iconic writers suggests the same little bit of advice to other writers: Read until your eyes go blind! Read, read, read. And just when you think you have read it all, read some more. 

Ever since I had read Stephen King’s On Writing years ago, I rarely leave the house without a book. I have my trusty phone, yes, but a book suggests that I am serious, and my literature has depth. Also, it is sort of old world and that’s just fucking cool.

There are many reasons that reading helps a writer along, and here are just a few:

Great Writers Have Experience.

Not everyone has the means to travel, and I’m not a cat. The books I choose can bring me anywhere in the world, teach me foreign words and cultures, help me to experience the life of a gay Aborigine, or a Russian princess in the nineteenth century. I might be sitting in a snowbank in middle-America, but now I have a portal to so much more, and I’m not even talking about fantasy or science fiction. I also like to watch weird people make strange choices and fully realize their reasons. It creates empathy. I like to ponder the abstract and the universal, and I treasure the wisdom that comes from other people’s stories.

Additionally, I like to be moved. Sometimes just the language, the poetic beauty of the written word, leaves me deeply touched. I mean, who doesn’t want to be catapulted into something inspiring? This is a very different experience from the content collapse of social media, silly memes, and seductive marketing videos. Reading a book can literally be divine.

Great Writers Share Knowledge. 

There is no debate; books are rife with mythical and biblical allusions. To read the sources of those ancient stories is to note the varied references over and over again. To know Shakespeare’s works is to know the timeless themes of new stuff. To recognize that humankind has been at this art of living for aeons, and to gain perspective about our true nature, our true place here on earth – well. We just cannot have that full-bodied knowing without exposure to reams of literature. 

And my favorite part? My vocabulary has expanded! It isn’t that I always have to reach for some obscure word to make my point. It is that when you do it, I almost always know what you are saying. That is just good fun! Smart people are sexy, no doubt about it.

Great Writers Build Relationships.

To be interesting begins with being interested. A few of my oldest friendships began with, “What are you reading these days?” Because people like to share what they are privately learning and what makes them laugh and how compelling good books can be. If you love a reader, and you have never asked them about what they are reading, you have really missed the mark! Talking about what you are reading is no less satisfying than telling an intimate secret or sharing a slow dance.

Not only do we build a relationship with fellow readers, but we come to know the authors as well. To appreciate a writer, to follow them, to spread the word about their stuff – that is also a connection worthy of one’s time. Even if I never meet a favorite writer in person, they can still show me the way and mentor me. The imprint is real.



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