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12 Reasons Reading Widely Is So Important For Writers

by David K. William | The Web Writer Spotlight: Dec 2, 2014


“The person who won't read has no advantage over the one who can't read.” — Mark Twain.


It’s always surprising to hear some people say they don’t like to read.

For those of us who enjoy reading, however, books are a welcome escape—a chance to transport into another world, go on adventures and experience other people’s reality without actually moving from your seat.

A good book makes you laugh, cry, chuckle and or think. You feel as though you are one with the characters; like the world within the pages is one with the real world around you. That is only part of the many delights of reading.

For writers, reading plays a particularly important role. Even if you’re not a "writer" per se, reading widely can be highly beneficial for you. Here’s why:


1. Reading widely gives you a sense of how writing should be done.


There are two basic ways writers improve their craft—practice and study. Writing regularly is good practice, while reading widely is good for study and getting a sense for how writing should be done. That’s because reading widely exposes you to many other voices, styles, plots and thought processes. As author Roz Morris says, “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.


2. Reading widely grows your vocabulary.


This is a no-brainer really, but worth mentioning all the same. As you read more, your vocabulary grows and your language and communication skills become more highly-developed. You consciously (or unconsciously) learn new words and new ways of using common words, which ultimately enhances your overall writing abilities. And no—vocabulary is not just for those who want to impress others with big, fancy words, but for anyone who wants to fill his arsenal with the tools for expressing ideas clearly.


3. Reading widely offers you inspiration.


Sometimes your writing hits a plateau and comes to a grinding halt. You experience what many call ‘writer’s block’ and feel in no mood or spirit to write anything. During such times, picking up a book or magazine to read can provide all the inspiration you need to get your creative juices flowing again. You see what other writers have done with words when reading and it nudges and motivates you to do just the same or even better!


4. Reading widely boosts creativity.


According to one study by scholars from the University of Toronto, people who read regularly are more creative and open-minded than those who don't. When you read widely you explore different topics from different angles, you link different actions to many possible outcomes and you discover new solution for problems. You break the barriers and delve into a world where everything is possible. From talking frogs to flying horses and fairytale worlds, the possibilities are endless. This stirs up your creative mind and the end result is greater creativity and less rigid thinking.


5. Reading widely improves understanding.


The more you read, the more you understand. You understand how different things work and how you and others fit in the grand scheme of things. Through reading you learn about different people, different places, different cultures and different beliefs. You comprehend the intricacies of human behavior and that helps you make better decisions in life. Your knowledge base becomes richer and richer the more you read. This actually embodies the Mathew effect where "the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.”


6. Reading widely enhances research.


Every piece of knowledge known to humankind has been recorded in books and other written material, including self-help books, business manuals, newspapers, magazines and historical accounts of people, places and incidents. No matter what information you are seeking, the answers can be found in reading. Even reading relevant blogs and websites can greatly enhance your research and quench your thirst for information. Reading is simply a modern miracle. It provides all the background information you need to form new ideas and or support existing ones. 


7. Reading widely develops empathy and emotional intelligence.  


Another study in The New York Times found that reading widely leads to better performance on tests of empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence. Apparently, we understand stories and relate with characters in literature in a way that is similar to how we understand people in the real world. You feel what a character is feeling when reading and can relate with both their struggles and victories. By so doing, your sensitivity to the human experience is heightened and your awareness and empathy awakened. This leads to greater social perception and emotional intelligence. 


8. Reading widely allows you to tap into other people’s experiences.


This means you don’t have to repeat the mistakes other people made on their path to success. Pick up a book and read the personal anecdotes and advice of people who’ve made it. Learn what they did right (and wrong) in the past to get to where they are today. Use that knowledge to inform your decisions and hasten your own path to success. After all, life is too short to make unnecessary mistakes when you can simply read a book within a few hours or days and learn a lifetime of tips and trick for success from people with a wealth of knowledge and experience who’ve been there and done it.


9. Reading widely improves brain "connectivity.”


Reading is a complex task that requires different regions of the brain to connect and work together for comprehension to take place. Neuroscientists at Emory University in Atlanta have determined that the simple act of reading, say, a gripping novel makes significant changes in the way the brain connects with different circuits, and those brain enhancing changes last for at least five days. While the changes may not be permanent, they suggest that this particular reading benefit of enhanced brain "connectivity” - which results in enhanced brain function - lasts longer than the act of reading itself.  


10. Reading widely boosts concentration.


That’s because reading connects directly to the brain and you do it in silence. When reading in silence, your brain is more focused and you boost your ability to pay full attention. You also increase your capacity to handle even the most complex ideas and tasks by reading more. That might explain why you are likely to write better after you've finished a book and tend to get things done when they ought to if you are a reader. 


11. Reading widely is a great catharsis.


It can help you work through feelings. This is especially important in our fast-paced world today where the hustle and bustle of everyday life is often mind numbing. Reading quietly to yourself relaxes your body and calms the mind. The words you choose to read can also uplift and elevate your mood, making you feel much happier. And since reading the black print on a white page is much less stressful for your eyes and brain than staring at the TV or computer all day, reading is highly recommended.


12. Reading widely kills boredom!


Reading wouldn’t be such a wonderful activity if it wasn’t fun. And it is often fun and entertaining. You can take it anywhere and you won’t be lonely or bored. For example, you can read a book while relaxing at the park, a magazine while waiting in a queue or a newspaper while riding in a train. Of course, those who are new to reading might not enjoy it at first, but it gets better with time. And, as Mark Twain said, in the end the person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.

See Also: 13 Critical Questions to Ask Yourself as a Writer.


David K. William is a web writer, publisher and consultant. He writes and publishes articles, reports and fiction for web and print media. David is also founding editor at Follow him @DavidKWilliam.

Photo credit: o5com/flickr



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