Recently, a first-time novelist by the name of William Giraldi made a worrying observation about today’s culture: More and more modern-day writers exhibit a disinclination to read. The most well-known of these, perhaps, is JK Rowling (of the Harry Potter series) who, despite professing that she rarely picks up a book – unless to sign it – is an astounding author.
I like to think that this should be the exception rather than the rule. Nevertheless, the modern generation is definitely reading less. Maybe it’s because we are relentlessly bombarded by all that is digital. Or perhaps we don’t have the time for more than the three-minute read that is the prerequisite for even the most impressive blog post. Maybe, just maybe, the book as I know it is dying a slow, quiet death.
Except that when I take a look at my overflowing bookshelves, crammed heavily with books of all shapes and sizes, I’m inclined to disagree. Reading has always been a part of me and I find it difficult to believe that an aspiring writer could ever be successful without ever having read a book. Rowling is the obvious wildcard, but there are dozens of other acclaimed authors for whom reading is as vitally important to them as writing, including Stephen King, who says that he reads 80 books a year.
In this blog post, we explore the nine reasons we think that reading feeds your writing soul.
1) Reading increases your vocabulary
English is one of the richest languages in the world, and it’s highly doubtful you will hear half of it just by using it in your everyday conversations. Reading regularly (no, the back of the cereal box doesn’t count) also allows you to see new words in print. Since humans are highly visual creatures, it’s therefore more likely that we will remember words we’ve seen (i.e. read) rather than heard. Writers who are keen to expand their vocabulary will benefit by selecting good-quality books of different genres.
2) Reading is good for your brain
Your brain needs to be exercised just as much as your body does. Reading regularly is a great way to give your brain the exercise it needs, and research proves it. According to a study by Emory University, reading stimulates brain connectivity and aids memory and imagination, in much the same way as sport enhances musical muscle strength and flexibility. It’s therefore logical to conclude that reading will not only help you write better; your newly improved brain will also be more capable of dealing with real life situations in a more creative and imaginative way.
3) Reading adds to your general knowledge
Any writer worth his salt will know that you can’t really pull off a good publication without first conducting some research, even if you are writing fiction. This is especially true for content writers who are often asked to explore topics they know nothing about. Being well-read can significantly cut down on your research time. If you’ve read about a particular topic before, you will obviously be more knowledgeable than your ‘I-hate-reading’ counterparts. During face-to-face interactions, meanwhile, you will find yourself more capable of maintaining meaningful conversations on a variety of topics.
4) Reading improves cultural awareness
Thanks to the internet, writing at an international level is no longer an implausible dream. When you are writing on the internet, you are appealing to a huge audience and your readers will not simply be locals whose first language is the same as yours. This is why, as a writer, you should always be aware of localisation. Something that might make sense to a reader from the United Kingdom might not necessarily be as clear to Australian readers; or – if your work is going to be translated into different languages – might even mean something different altogether. This is particularly true for many English proverbs that we use every day.
Book lovers will naturally be more aware of what goes on in different cultures. It is thanks to John Grisham that I can confidently write about the NYPD, or reference the Saudi Arabian culture so vividly portrayed by Jean Sasson. I could, of course, add more examples, but I’m sure you get my drift.
5) Reading reduces stress
Stress is toxic to the body and mind – and everyone knows that a stressed-out writer is never a good one. So, here’s some good news: reading for pleasure can be an easy, inexpensive way to reduce stress levels by up 68%, beating listening to music and going for a walk.
6) Reading serves as inspiration
“Reading,” says Roz Morris, “the good and the bad, inspires you. It develops your palate for the tricks that writers have invented over the years. You can learn from textbooks about the writing craft, but there’s no substitute for discovering for yourself how a writer pulls off a trick. Then that becomes part of your experience.”
I don’t really think I need to elaborate here. Reading other writers’ work will definitely teach you a thing or two. At the very least, you will get an idea of all the competition – and there’s a lot of it out there!
7) Reading provides a way to escape
As a child, there was nothing I enjoyed better than diving headlong into the pages of a spine-tingling adventure book. As an adult, books are still my most preferred refuge. This idea of ‘getting lost’ between the pages of a book is referred to as ‘transportation’. According to Dr Melanie Green, a communications professor at the University of Buffalo, books are the ideal way to escape from “boredom and stress”.
8) Reading helps you understand better
The ultimate goal of anything you’ve written is always that it will be read and understood by an audience. Writers who are able to appeal to their readers obviously have an intrinsic knowledge about what their readers are looking for. It therefore follows that empathic readers will make better writers; this is backed up in a study by Oakley, who claims that readers of fiction “improve their understanding of others”.
9) Reading keeps your mind active
Us writers lead a pretty much sedentary lifestyle, and this can take its toll, both physically and mentally. Reading, however, seems to be the way out for preventing many mental disorders that appear with age. Studies also show that reading regularly improves memory. Both of these facts mean that you’ll be able to write way into your old age, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that!
We love to read … and write!
At Topcontent, our love of reading is only exceeded by our love of writing, and we’re always on the lookout for like-minded people. Check out our writers’ blog if you’re a reader who loves to write, or take the plunge into the writing world by joining our community of skilled writers.