Monday 16 May 2022

Why Reading Is Important - The Creative Process


I'm sure that as a writer, like me, you have been told many, many times that reading is important. You don't need me to list all the basic facts because it's something that's been ingrained in us from a young age. If you want to write books you need to read them, you need to read in your category and genre and you need to keep doing so, otherwise how are you going to know what works and what doesn't? How are you going to know what you like and what you don't? It's been told so many times that I honestly believe that I could recite the same speech people give me from memory.

I'm not going to do that because you're not here to have it repeated to you again. Instead, I'm going to do something different, or at least I'm going to attempt to, you can be the judge as to whether or not I pulled it off.

Writers are, by definition, people who tell stories for a living. Whether that's imagined ones, or real ones in the case of non-fiction. We, as humans, are natural story tellers. There are some who are better than others, like with any other art form, and there are some who strive and work and never quite get to the point where they want to be. That's normal, it happens to all of us. We learn by doing, by exploring, and yes, by admiring other people's way of doing things, which is reading in this case.

If a painter wants to get better at their craft, then they study, the work, they get critique and insight from other painters and those with skill in their art. They may go to museums and look at what's on display, get inspired from something they've seen tried, a particular technique, and they learn and grow at what they're doing by putting the brush to the canvas and painting, trying this and that and going from there. It's how it works.

I say that as someone who has never managed to paint anything bar a few paint by numbers, and has no artistic talent for drawing, painting or anything visual. I assume it works the same for them as it does for writers because I do admire art and I have friends who are very much talented in that regard. My best friend, B, who designs my book covers is a talented artist as is her seventeen year old, though they also do writing as well. Despite not being related to me by blood, they seem to have picked up both our habits as we've brought them up.

So when it comes to writing, you can do many things to try and improve your craft. You can write and write and write, but you may find that you stagnate. You may find that you get better, but not as much as you could if you were to engage with others like you. So you can go to school and pick up creative writing classes, and again, they can help you. You might find yourself finding a certain technique talked about in the course and actually be able to apply it to your own process and bloom from there. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

You may also find that dealing with critique partners or groups will help you grow too. You'll be getting feedback from other writers, who are also readers, and you'll be able to see things in your own work that maybe you missed because you didn't quite have that critical eye. It happens to all of us because we're too close to our own stories. You may do something like watch Authortube, and find that the advice given there really helps you move up a level or two, or more, and you manage to get to the point where you know you're improving and you know that you're getting better with your work. Again, absolutely nothing wrong with any of that. We all learn different ways and we all have different techniques and styles, and it's great that you've found something that works for you.

But, and I'm guessing some of you saw this coming, one way to be sure that you will always keep moving forward is to do as much of that, and, do some reading. I know that people will look at my stats and think they have no time to read as much as I do. And that's completely okay. I'm edging closer to 200 books this year, and already had to increase my goal. To be honest, since the pandemic happened, I'm still in awe at myself for managing to read so much. It used to be that I would manage 150/175 books a year and that was more than enough. You don't have to strive to do what I do, but you do need to find a level that works for you.

If that means reading one book a week, or one book a month, whatever works for you is completely okay and valid. Reading is going to help you spot so many things that yes, you might be able to learn from other places, but the way it brings all of the above together into a finished piece is something that, personally, I don't think you can beat.

Reading is important, and having down time to recharge is important, and if doing both at the same time works for you, even better. If it doesn't, there's nothing wrong with that. You work to your pace and to your ability. No one can ask more than that.

Any questions? Lemme know in the comments below!

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