Why Writers Need to Read if They Want to Be Good

I was reading a blog the other day, and it kind of depressed me. The writing was pretty mediocre, and the worst part was it didn’t have to be. It could have been more. Much more. If the writer had just paid attention.

The post was rife with typos, bad vocabulary, poor grammar, and passive voice. The content was pretty vanilla, too. Sure, the writing was simple and conversational, as most blogs are. But nothing grabbed me.

It was something you would read and then soon forget. And that’s what made me sad: the writer could have really wowed the reader, and instead she chose not to.

What would have made the difference? If she had done her homework. If she had read more.

Good Writers Read
Photo credit: KC Toh (Creative Commons)

Different strokes for different folks

I don’t want to be disingenuous here; I’ve said before that there are different styles of writing. Some writing ought to be simple. You shouldn’t write pretentiously or with complicated vocabulary if the audience can’t relate to it. There is something to be said for a writer’s choice of style.

But if your writing is just fluff, the reader will realize it. Even if he isn’t an academician or grammar god. People can easily recognize bad writing. Which brings me to my point: writers need to be readers.

Good writers read

Writers need to read. A lot. Magazines. Books. Periodicals. And so on. They need to grasp the art of language, to appreciate the finer points of words. As they read, they should jot down ideas and capture thoughts as they come.

Nothing inspires a writer like reading someone else’s words.

As a writer, you’ll find yourself hitting plateaus and roadblocks when you aren’t reading. You’ll run out of words, if you’re not regularly being challenged through books and other material.

This is an important step to becoming a good writer. But for those of you who struggle to follow through with projects (like I do), this may discourage you. You may doubt you can do this. If so, remember:

It’s not about finishing

Many people read books to finish them. This is not always necessary. You can and should read books or articles just to read them — to glean new ideas, learn new words, and fall back in love with writing.

Don’t worry too much about completion; just start. Here’s how you can begin:

  • Don’t read to accomplish anything. You don’t need to read to finish what you’re reading. Just read to read. Don’t neglect this discipline. Make reading a habit, a personal passion. And be sure to read widely.
  • Study language. As a writer, words are your lifeblood. Read anything. Just get started. If you don’t know where to start, begin with these resources for writers (also, check out 1000 novels every writer should read).
  • Read what others are reading. Not sure where to start? Read what other writers recommend. For more on this, check out the best books on writing. You might want also to read this article: Writers on Reading

Are you ready to get started — to become a student of words once again and fall back in love with the art of language? You’d better be. Because the bottom line is: You can’t be the writer you hope to be if you don’t read. Time to get started.

So what are you reading? Share in the comments.

*Photo credit: KC Toh

154 thoughts on “Why Writers Need to Read if They Want to Be Good

  1. I really like this blog, this post about reading in particular. Language and words make me tick somehow but I can’t explain it… Is that what passion feels like? I don’t know yet. I just thank God for bringing me here. I’m a very undisciplined reader at the moment, so I’m stopping all my reading to read How To Read a Book by M.J. Adler–hopefully this will make me a better reader, and consequently a better writer. Thanks, Jeff.

  2. Hi Jeff, I found your site on Facebook and it’s timely as I have just chosen to pursue my passion for writing.  Recently I realized that my biggest hurdle in finding that writing flow is my lack of reading time.  So this post hit it right on the spot.  I’m still struggling to get that reading time as consistent as I want to but hopefully, things will get better in the months to come.  Would love it if you can visit my blog and share a few insights. 🙂 


  3. Thanks for the Article Jeff,

    I come to your blog throught thinktraffic.com,  i’ve read some posts before writing this comment, I don’t write comments regulary, not that I don’t find that articles are great, but I think that  I belive that  i’m not a good writer.

    So excuse me you, I’m not a native english speaker so you would notice that my language and my writing aren’t good, you could guess why i’m here then. When I was a young boy i had a bad relation time with books, I mean my parents wanted me to read a Victor Hugo work by the age of 7 years or 8, i haden’t neither the maturity nor the level to understand the book, so i felt a kind of frustration and pain towards reading.

     But in the last two or three years, i started to read more, thanks to my sister, so i just went from reading books on self improvement and personal developement to books on how to write (On writing by stephen king ), but my main problem is that i was going into this analysis paralysise frame. I also read some novels (Harry Potter, Marc Levy books, Paulo Coelho) but those were french books, Actually i would say that i’ve only read 2 english books compeletly: The Game by Neil Strauss and The Testament by John Grisham. For the other non-fiction books, i was more reading what was interesting me in the book rather than reading the whole book. So Actually i have a couple of questions there:

    1) How many books do I need to read in a year ?
    2)How would I learn the vocabulary form the book, i mean do I need to look up for the words I do not understand  in a dictionary and try to use them in everyday life and in my writings ? Or I just would read and words will get into my mind unconsciously, and with practice i will start using them in my writings ?

    Thank you for the blog Jeff, Thank you for the articles, thanks for the time and energy you’re investing to help us, thank you for sharing your passion for writing, thank you for inspiring us. 

    I hope the we all get the most from your articles.

    Anas Farah

  4. Jeff, if it were me, feel free to email me and let me know. Seriously. LOL I am open to constructive criticism and want to be better at writing.

    I know my target is moms, but you know…if ever.

    What I’m reading: I am nearly done reading “Rumors of Water” by L.L. Barkat. A good, easy read. Especially for beginner writers. It paints a good picture of what a writer should aim for an expect. It’s broad. I’m ready for something a bit more detailed, so I’ve also picked up “Writing Tools” by Roy Peter Clark.

    Alongside that I’m reading, “Kisses From Katie” by Katie Davis – it’s a story of the life of a gal in Uganda working as a missionary (maybe you’ve heard of it?)

    Thank you for the tips! I hope your wife is doing well through her pregnancy? 🙂

  5. Most definitely!  I agree! Being that there are many styles of writing out there, we need to find out own voice. We need to be ourselves in our writing. Reading what others have written helps to define what we like and don’t like. It acts as a funnel to point us to our own voice.  May we all read on! 🙂

  6. I agree, although I think that finishing books that you read is key if you are a writer, to see how someone else goes from start to finish (both for fiction and nonfiction). Of course, I’ve put books down, too, but not nearly as often as I used to.

  7. This is true for any artist…study the work of others! I was a music major in college, and in one course we would just listen to music, and even had exams focused on listening. Great artists listen to/read/study the works of those who have gone before them, as well as their peers. It’s how we grow in our craft and broaden ourselves as people. It adds such richness to our lives!

  8. I totally agree. Before when I was in medschool and only get to read very technical books, my writing also becAme technical. But now that I have, again, slowly immersed myself in novels and magazines my writing is also starting to “heal”.

  9. Jeff, as a long-time freelancer of books and magazine articles, I’ve said it time-and-again:  If you want to be a writer you’d better be a reader.  Reading serves so many purposes, from understanding what beautiful language is really about to learning how to better market yourself to staying abreast of changes in your field.  Great post.

  10. Love this post. I know my skill as a writer comes from my childhood and early adult years as a bookworm.  There’s nothing like finding a new author whose word choices and language patterns intrigue and fascinate me, and that does inspire my work. 

  11. Yep. 1000% agree with this post.
    “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” — Stephen King

      1. That is an excellent quote. It kills me to hear someone has written a book and does not have time to read. Makes no sense.

      1. Yes, Stephen King is on track. He knows his craft and in his book, “On Writing” he puts so much knowledge and experience out there for us as writers to use. Wish I would have read “On Writing” years ago; he’s so totally right!

  12. If there’s anything I do well, it’s read. I’m in the middle of Unbroken, Surprised by Oxford, and The Resignation of Eve. While I was writing my WIP, I wasn’t able to read as much as I normally do and it felt like such a void. When I start writing my next book, I’m determined to sacrifice something other than reading time.

  13. I agree totally, excellent advice! Whenever I give talk with young, budding writers, I always tell them the best things they can do to become better at the craft is to read, read and read some more, and to become a better listener. Usually, they’re naturally on the right track.

      1. Yes, Rebecca, it’s important to “listen” to what you’re reading, but listening to others, to what people around you are saying, is vital. It makes us better writers and others feel as though their thoughts and feelings are appreciated and respected…they feel truly heard.

  14. Hi Jeff, I want to thank you for this post and so many others I have read on your blog! I am new to writing and blogging, about 1 year in, and am learning so much. I am excited about the years ahead and all the knowledge I am yet to gain. I look forward to your future posts and I will continue to read through your previous ones! Take care!

  15. Well, I’m feeling pretty good about what I was doing right before I read your post. I was reading and taking notes on a book called _The Thinking Life_, by P.M. Forni. He is making the same basic point: make time to think (and read).

  16. Excellent advice, Jeff. When I first began writing fiction, I stopped reading books. I was afraid I’d be influenced by what I read. Duh! Of course, I would be. That’s the point. Once I realized I could learn from reading the work of other writers and that doing so would help my writing improve, I started reading again and was rewarding to see my stories get better. Not that I was intentionally using techniques or copying plot points or anything. It was as though, by immersing myself in well written books, I gained new skills without even realizing it. To paraphrase a popular saying: Good Stuff in; Better Stuff Out.

    1. I was thinking about getting that book too. May just order it when my new Kindle comes in… Come to think about it, I ordered a Droid Tablet too.. What was I thinking?

  17. The sad thing is that people do not realize that they need reading, being writers or not.  We all must communicate with other people all the time, either in written or spoken form, and the moment we open our mouth or write the first lines, it is quite obvious if we are educated or not. And we all know that it can secure us a certain amount of (non)respect. You cannot acquire or learn a language, and develop your own style if you do not read. Reading is absolutely essential for a huge numbers of careers, and it is impossible to improve yourself without reading. So, this way or other, we all need to read.
    I just love reading and always read a few books at the same time.  Reading a book is a kind of journey for me and therefore I love to read it to the end. It must be a really bad one not to finish it, but I have developed quite a good instinct for books, so I rarely miss.
    And if I never become a writer of non-fiction, an avid reader shall I always be …

  18. Omg! I am tweeting this to my followers ASAP! I’ve been trying to convey this message for quite some time! Love the first bullet point too, “Don’t read to accomplish anything!” When I tweet asking, “What’s the last book you’ve read?” The responses I get… SMH. 

  19. Oh, I forgot to answer the last question. I’m reading Cashvertising by Drew Eric Whitman and then it’s on to The Ultimate Marketing Plan by Dan S. Kennedy, Change Life in 30 Days by Rhonda Britten, and then Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins. A kill at least 1-3 books per week in between my work. Great Post!!

  20. Definitely! 90% of my ideas come when I am reading someone else’s writing. My first novel (never published, but the first one I actually wrote) was actually a re-write of someone else’s book that left me unsatisfied. 

    Oh, and I’m reading “The Fear if God” by Arnold L. Frank, and of course your blog. 😉

  21. I’m actually reading a book called “Why Johnny Can’t Preach.” I just finished a chapter about how no one reads anymore, and therefore do not know how to effectively communicate in an engaging manor. When we do read, we breeze through things trying to identify the main point so we can move on, but we never rest in the book/blog/news article nor do we appreciate the artform of the writing.

    1. Cool, man… I downloaded chapter 1 of Johnny Can’t Preach a while back – it’s on my reading list. It’s true, bad preaching most likely comes from bad reading. I’ve had this premonition for a long time so it’s good to see a book addressing the issue.

      Currently reading How To Read A Book by Adler. It’s a great read! – can’t wait to finish.

  22. I agree wholeheartedly as well! I try to always read at least 2-3 books at a time. Last night I started Reamde by Neal Stephenson (as recommended by a couple of friends). From what I have read, i am impressed with how Stephenson writes (this is my first book by him). I mainly read fantasy fiction because I have always loved the genre. Tolkien started me down this road over 25 years ago, and my love of his works stays strong today.

  23. Hey Jeff, I just started reading your blog, recommended by Michael Hyatt. He was right, you are really, really good. I enjoy your style and content very much.  Keep it up!

  24. So true. Lately I have found a couple of blogs I love and am also working my way through Method Writing by Jack Grapes and Traveling Mercies by Anne LaMott. Also being a reader for a friend of mine and the book she is working on. 

    I appreciate the encouragement to press on in the reading of the writing process. I needed that shot in the arm today. Thank you. 

  25. Confident it wasn’t me 🙂

    and The Boy in the Moon , Ian Brown. Exquisite writing. Keep stopping after so many of the sentences , holding the book to my chest. That kind of good.

  26. Totally agree. 
    I love reading I read one hundred and whatever books one year, so I don’t have much trouble with that aspect of writing. I find that reading has helped build me as a writer. It’s taught me a lot and given me most of the skills I have now. So you have it right: Reading is important. There is no writer who doesn’t read.

  27. I am currently reading two books:  I Blew It by Brian Dollar and First Things First by Stephen Covey.  I just finished two books by Jim Wideman…Stretch and Beat the Clock…all awesome books!

  28. Agreed! I like especially your point of it not mattering so much what you read but that you do (says the future librarian). I am currently reading “A Visit from the Goon Squad” and “Mysteries of Pittsburgh” as well as about an hour plus of blogs, articles and posts from the ‘nets each day.

  29. Interesting. I’m actually working on a post of my own about finishing right now. I think it would be helpful if more people realized that we don’t need to complete something in order to be finished with it. “Finishing” in this sense is subjective. It happens whenever we move on.

    I am currently reading “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp and “Linchpin” by Seth Godin. I am also involved in a couple of studies: “What Every Girl Wants” by Lisa Harper and “The Complete Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. And then there’s my “to read” list…oy.

  30. While sorting through a box of books left by my grandfather, who passed last fall, I found “Seabiscuit” by Laura Hillenbrand. I must say, I was not at all interested in reading this. However, there was a book mark in the middle so I opened it up and began to read, what I found floored me. 
    Hillenbrand is not only a gifted writer, her writing is a gift. She is an artist, sculpting delicate words into intricately detailed figures and using her skill to paint sweeping landscapes of energy and emotion. What astounded me even more was how each and every sentence is perfect, without want, not starved, not obese, just lean, fluid, graceful. As she wrote about the horrific life of a jockey in the 1930’s – something I never thought I’d care for – I was repulsed, yet drawn in closer with each word, each scene of anguish and desperation made me desirous for another.  Each sentence from her writing is a present, drawn up with elegant paper and wrapped in silken bows, just inviting you to open it – and it doesn’t disappoint! For once the gift is as satisfying as the anticipation, the delivery powerful, vivid, with a delicious aftertaste.I may, or may not, ever have her skill, her gift. Yet I know just reading her work, absorbing the beauty of her poetic license, has made me more. More intelligent, more articulate, more driven to perfection and, in the very least, more of an active participant in the world around me and the mark I leave on it.

  31. Another writer I love is Tobias Wolfe. His writing in “Old School” is so glorious I sometimes reread whole pages three or four times, in a row, just to enjoy the feeling of  how it flows over me like a warm gentle breeze. IMHO he is much better than some of his contemporaries and yet gets little accolades for his inimitable contribution to modern literature. He is definitely a favorite.

    Although I love King, and his opinions on writing are mostly dead-on, I will say I have to argue one facet with him. He has said in his book “On Writing” that he believes profanity is necessary to accurately portray a realistic character. I agree, to a point, but when writers like Ted Dekker can be as prolific (and realistic)  and yet never use a foul word, I have to raise an eyebrow to King’s defense of his language choices, which offend many.
    Any thoughts on this controversial issue Jeff?

  32. Currently reading “Out of the Silent Planet” by C.S. Lewis. Reading helps keep me sane. It also helps me better understand and process my world. Reading is therapy too.

  33. I’m reading a number of things currently (the Bible, blogs, and magazines are daily reads). I’m reading an eBook about the publishing process for the bestseller “The Art of Fielding.” Interesting to follow the journey of a debut author. I’m also reading Billy Graham’s “Nearing Home.”

    I’ve gotten into the practice of reading as a part of my Sabbath (computer’s going off soon and not coming back on for the next 24 hours). I’ve finished two recommended novels in the past two weeks because of this practice.

  34. Thanks Jeff. I have just started to read The Pastor by Eugene Peterson. I am looking forward to this because I think Eugene is a master wordsmith. 
    I will be trawling for quotes. I have pencil poised. 
    Keep up the great work.

  35. Yeah, dude! Reading regularly, obsessively, widely, is definitely key.

    I find that when I need to get back into writing more passionately, it all stems from reading like a crazed page-eating “literombie” (Okay…what?!%$).

    I am not sure about the part about not finishing though. I tend to think that reading a book only part way through is not a positive habit. Once you have already read a book at least once, then yes, I see your point. It can indeed be good to go back over certain passages or chapters once you’ve read it as a whole. But conking out in the middle of books I find depressing.

    As always, I respect your viewpoint though, Jeff, because, like you say, different strokes for different folks.

    Best wishes,


  36. Hi Jeff,

    this is a fabulous post! Especially love the point on “you don’t have to finish it” you just have to spend time with the materials. I couldn’t agree any more with you on this.

    Thanks for the ideas, Buffered this post for sure! 🙂 

  37. One of the best reads I have encountered recently was ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ by Jonathan Foer. There were three distinct voices throughout the book, and the writing was done so well that you could almost hear each person saying what was being written, particularly the chapters from the point of view of a nine-year-old boy. Fantastic!

  38. There are at least two writing errors in the above post:

    1. Incorrect placement of full stops, brackets, and capital letters i.e. ‘…writers. (Also, check out 1000 novels every writer should read.)’. This should read: ‘…writers (also, check out 1000 novels every writer should read).’.

    2. Incomplete sentence lacking past participle i.e. ‘You better be’. This should read: ‘You had better be’ or ‘You’d better be’.

  39. Love reading children’s books!! Finished “Out of my Mind” by Sharon M. Draper, and just starting the 2012 Newbery Award book ” Dead End in Norvelt” by Jack Gantos. Recently heard him talk about this book on NPR…outstanding book talk. Got me interested. 🙂

  40. I’ve been reading short stories lately. Because there are so many things going on in my personal and professional life at the moment, I love being able to pick up a story and be finished within half an hour or less. Reading takes time, but it doesn’t have to be hours every day. A chapter a day, a short story a day, a few articles a day…no excuses. Thanks, Jeff.

  41. Just wondering anyone else here read multiple books at once?
    I have one for the train ride, one for weeknights , one for weekends and one by the bedside table. I suspect there are others out there?

      1. I used to think this was a bad thing, like proof of a severe case of ADD. Maybe it’s really more like a form of exercise, where it’s important to vary your workout (ie reading many different things to change things up a little). Thanks for this article Jeff.

    1. I used to have several books on the go all the time.  But I realized that often I get thru one book and couldn’t remember what it was about, just another notch in the headboard of life.  Now I carry one book with me most places, plus  a journal that I take along to note quotes, phrases, words or ideas.  I find I read much more quickly and its a more satisfying read.   I have even taken the story and rewritten it to be the one I had wanted to have read.   

  42. Right now, I’m reading “Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent”.  Our small group is using this book as a discussion starter as we concentrate on parenting our middle school students.

  43. Recently, I hit a rather long dry spell with writing, and then I realized why. Just as you said, I ran out words to write because I stop “eating” them. If nothing goes in, nothing, rather shortly afterwards, comes out. So, I started reading again. At first, I made excuses to myself that I didn’t have time to read, but then something my brother, who’s a personal trainer, said to me a few years back about not working out enough came back into my head. 

    “You don’t have time, you make time.” 

    The same goes with just about everything, especially reading. Since then, I’ve finished a few books, I’m a lot happier, and I am already coming up with some really good ideas to write with.

    The last book I just finished, I highly recommend: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Honestly, since the main characters are both writers, they actually have a lot to say about writing that is really good. Also, she uses a lot of flashbacks and segmented parts very artfully, which I noticed myself for when I write something in a similar format. 

  44. I’m probably reading a little too much, if that’s possible.  I’m reading The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Kisses from Katie, Bird by Bird, The Mystery of God’s Will, Jefferson’s Sons, From Blah to Awe, and I think that’s it for this week.  

    Just yesterday I got to browse the aisles at Target and took notes about which books I want to read….now if there were only more time….
    This post was right on!

  45. I think I just realized why my art died off about a year ago: I quit going to galleries on the principle that there wasn’t anything good enough to look at. Which may be true. In which case, I should’ve traveled to go see exhibits that stoked the creative fire. The last time I got really excited about painting was back in December 2010 when I saw the Dali exhibit at the High museum in Atlanta. And the last time I painted was March 2011. Gotta keep the well full…

  46. I have been stretching my reading habits lately which makes me agree with this post wholeheartedly.  Last week I finished The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and a book of celtic verse.  I am 40 pages into Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund.

  47. A writing instructor first mentioned “Read to write.” The caveat, she said, “read the good stuff.” Those words and yours inspire me to make time for reading. These wise words have also led me to download sample chapters before buying. Thanks for your post. 

  48. hi Jeff, 

    Last week I literally bumped in to “11/22/63” by Stephen King . I opened the book, start reading and couldn’t stop . I really fell in love with the language. I also realized how books, or more precisely the language in the books is different from magazines, news papers or even more , blog posts. And I fully agree – to be a writer, one should be a reader too 🙂 

    However, the is only one, teeny tiny,  drawback – it really distracts me from writing 🙂 

  49. Yep, I couldn’t agree more. It’s something I posted about quite recently actually: https://finchblogs.com/2012/01/19/stop-reading-blogs-start-reading-books/

    Many people now get their reading material in the form of blogs and amateur journalism. Or worse yet, Twitter. The barrier to entry for publishing writing has become so low, and the exposure to it so great, that many people are simply picking up bad habits from other bad writers. 

    I aim to read 100 pages on my Kindle every day. I’ve stuck to it for a few months now and it’s already improved my writing. Even more importantly, the inspiration a blogger can obtain by simply reading a diverse selection of  books is huge. It gives you new ideas by the bucket load.

  50. So I read this and was intrigued, I got worried that it was my blog your were looking at. Because I think I am a passive writer and know I have a huge potential for more. I am sure you are busy but could you give me a few pointers from reading my blog?

  51. Hi Jeff, I really don’t understand writers of any kind who do not read. It seems unnatural. How can you ever expect to be an effective communicator, a story teller, if you don’t have a love or an extreme like for the written word? Baffling. I’ll be sharing this post with my gang, they need to hear it:)

  52. Hi Jeff, thanks so much for this post. My dream is to be a successful blogger and published creative writer. I have been writing poetry since I was 16, but to take this private hobby futher is a challenge. In the process of researching blog writing, I stumbled upon you. You’ve helped me tremendously and I am now learning the work that needs to be done.  Thank You! Melissa

  53. this realy helped me im a teenger and want to be a wrighter so ima try this. oh and im reading the Vampire Kisses series and on the 7th book this is the most of a series ive ever read. the person who realy inspired me to wright is Steven King and Edger Allen Poe. Thanks so much! Byeee

  54. Hi Jeff, I too have read The thirteenth tale, a brilliant book, a fantastic book even ! but then perhaps I am predudiced, Iam her father !!!  Not a academic, schools in UK During ww 2 were not very good. I am a firefighter [retired],woodcarver [retired], but I do read a lot, mostly aircraft books, so keep writing , you never know who you are inspiring to go on and do good things .

    1. “On writing well” is a very good choice to start with. I think it will help you not only to write better, but will also guide you to other sources. You can free download it.

  55. Thanks for your article! I’m not a native English speaker and I want to improve my skills, above all in writing. Can you recommend any books (guidebooks as well as novels) for me? The internet is full of information, but it’s hard to filter the good and relevant stuff. 

  56. Really, the method is fully correct and easy to make habit of reading any thing. I appreciate him for giving such type of advice to be good reader then writer too.
    I wish to communicate them who wants to share any things for learning….plz send here at   khairulworld77@yahoo.com

  57. True story.  Good advice.  

    I’m reading “What is the What” by Dave Eggers.  Written in a very different style than most books I’ve read, and a great story apparently based on true events too.

  58. I wouldn’t disagree totally, but I think more important for a writer or any “communicator” is to “listen” to self and to others. We may read with our eyes, but stories happen in both the mind’s eye and ear.

  59. Hi, I’m so glad I got to read this post.
    I was actually searching for a list of books every writer should read (1000 novels should do it nicely) and couldn’t help but take a peek.
    I completely agree with what you’re saying here and know that the books that I have been exposed to and read are not part of what make me who I am as a writer, but also who I am as a person.
    I’ve actually made a challenge for myself, to read 200 books in a year. Some may be gigantic and some small.

    I linked to this from a post i just made. it kind of inspired my post.


  60. Sorry, but how many other guys were relieved after reading “…instead SHE chose not to.”

    Not that some of that critique couldn’t have applied to me at times!

  61. I believe most writers, at least to my mind, good writers, are printed word junkies.

    The type, that no matter where they are, their eyes are constantly searching for words….on a magazine stand, newspaper, cereal box, when they are not scribbling their own thoughts down on whatever writing surface they can find.

    I also believe that all good writers are readers, first and foremost. After all, if they were not readers to begin with, they would not have developed a love of words and the power they possess.

    I agree, that to become a good writer, it requires reading, and reading broadly in all sorts of subject matters, genres, contemporary and classic. This will help you to develop your own style of writing, depending on the subject matter. You get an ear for dialogue, patterns,what sounds right, flows, engages your interest, which can be done in so many formats and styles of writing. To me, if a writer does not read, especially the stories he/she proposes to write, they are not going to get far and are only kidding themselves that they are writers.

  62. What you put out is very convincing, I think this view is entirely accurate and relatively reasonable. Reading helps anyone of us accumulate useful knowledge.

  63. Could it be that the writer was not a native English speaker/writer? English is my 4th language after Flemish, Dutch and French and I scan my drafts over and over for grammar mistakes.

    My heart skipped a beat when you wrote “she” so we know now that the bad writer was female. Did you contact her to tell her about her grammar, typos etc? Kinda scared here you were talking about my blog 😀 (Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me)

  64. writers do not need to read, the greatest inspiration, a writer could attain, does not come from the work of others, but rather, from the writer itself, for within ourselves is truth, a truthful writer is a great, thus, needing to compare your work or learn from others, is as irrelevant as this article. the failures of a teacher, breeds further failure unto others, writers, write.

    1. Writers do need to read. Your poor grammar speaks volumes. Is that the reason for the defense of writers who don’t read? You don’t like reading, yet fancy yourself a writer? What’s with the ridiculous number of commas in your first sentence? Basic punctuation can be learned by reading. Give it a try.

      1. One can easily improve grammar, but yet not everyone will ever express raw truth, raw emotion. You really think polishing ones grammar or even spelling is going to help creativity? You Sir, have had the wooled pulled over your eyes.

        Incognito is write…

  65. incognito, although there may be some writing that does not require having a rich knowledge of reading in many and varied genres and styles, both fiction and non-fiction, such as text book writing, or journalism, or technical writing, even those writers benefit from reading others work in the same field, if not in general. Without, realizing it, and dependent on their “mother language”, the mind takes in the different nuances,cadence, syntax, first, second or third person point of view, rules of grammar and their exceptions and incorporates this based on what their ears and mind tell them works for their writing. It is very normal for beginning writers to copy styles, until they “come into their own”. This does not make them an “untruthful wiriter,

    au contraire, like any craft, it is built on prior knowledge and experience and that is what makes a good writer’s words, and their resulting stories and articles, ring true. A teacher can only give examples, grammar rules of style, exercises and guidance. If any failure there be, it is in not putting in the effort to find your voice not in the teacher. I agree, Writer’s write, and it is usually hard work. Some days easy, the words just flow, at other times, only a blank page, and the infinitesimal re-writing, but if they were not readers first, they wouldn’t have a clue.

  66. I just finished reading The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and I’m currently reading The Girl on the Train. I love when I’m reading a book and I have to stop to write down a sentence, or a paragraph so I can find it later. The last two books I read had me doing that left and right, for very different reasons. Reading also helps me notice things I don’t like in books, and things that distract me from the story I’m reading, which allows me to get clearer on the type of writer I want to be. I’d forgotten for a long time just how much I love to read… funny, when I started reading again, I started, almost automatically, writing again. 🙂

  67. How can you be a writer if you don’t love words? And if you love words, how could you not want to see what can be done with them? How else can you find that out but by reading a wide range of materials? I am not so arrogant as to think that I can come up with it all on my own. Great post. Couldn’t agree more. Oh, and to answer the question, I am currently reading Johannes Cabal the Detective by Jonathan L. Howard.

  68. Spot on, Jeff (as usual). I’ve found my writing improves the more I read books and other blogs. More than grammar, we pick up cadence and the beauty of using words to paint a picture through story. My wife and I just finished reading The Voyage of Slaves by Brian Jacques together, and I’m currently reading Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek and The Art of Work by you!

  69. I completely agree, but how do I strike a balance between reading material I enjoy and reading texts that I “should” read but am not really drawn to? I was the kid in my college classes that struggled to read all the literary material that was assigned (i.e. not genre fiction); I felt a little inferior to my other classmates who seemed to breeze through all the materials, adding their own insightful commentaries and critique in class discussions. That feeling still persists, even as I try to write my own work. Does anyone else feel this way, or is it just me?

    1. It seems to me you ‘should be’ reading whatever maks you happy. If you want to write literary fiction, you should read it. If you hate it, why are you writing it? perhaps you’d be better off writing genre fiction. People love that even if it doesn’t win awards.

  70. Couldn’t agree more, however one must be careful not to base their complete ideas upon the work of others.

  71. Just finished Big Magic. Okay for people who need a kick to start being creative, nothing to take people to the next level.

  72. I’m reading Dragon Ore by Brian Rathstone and Structuring Your Novel by KM Wieland. My TBR stack is growing daily! Trying to read a book a week this year.

  73. Hey Jeff. Good points. I’ve decided to make reading a big goal this year: I’m shooting for 30 books by the end of the year…so far I’m ahead of schedule with 7 read so far!

    The Sun Also Rises
    The Millionaire Next Door
    The School of Greatness
    East of Eden
    The Tipping Point
    The Old Man and the Sea

    Currently reading The Picture of Dorian Gray now. However, after reading 23 books last year, I’ve found one thing we writers need to beware with reading:

    Reading can be an easy excuse to avoid what you really need to do – write, blog, network, etc. If reading books is filling the tank with gas, sometimes we just need to drive.

    You know?

  74. This was an excellent and helpful post. I remember a journalist once saying that she was “an okay writer, but a really good editor.” Writers need to also be good editors to make their writing the best it can be. Would you be able to write about a blog post about how you edit your writing before posting/publishing?

  75. Is it okay to read without finishing the book?
    I often get bored or get excited about my own ideas while reading. I feel that those moments when I get aroused is when I should stop reading. When I leave at the climax the scene stays with me for a while after.
    Maybe I just have a fear of being corrupted by the author.
    Maybe I want all the ideas to be credited to me out of jealousy?
    Am I displaying poor student behavior or independent thought and a sharp instinct for morality.

  76. Thanks Jeff,
    I needed this for some research I am doing. That is where I do most of my reading, during my research. I love it.

  77. Just finished The Art of Work and now I am slowly digesting You Are a Writer a chapter a morning. Great truths and encouragement.

  78. At the moment, this blog. Otherwise “Salmon of Doubt” by Douglas Adams, Myths and Folklore of Ireland, and Old Celtic Romances.

  79. I’d say that USUALLY good writers are well-read, but not necessarily. Most writers I find enjoy reading anyhow so it’s not a problem, but some writer’s don’t. Naturally gifted writing is definitely a thing. Of course they would need to read SOMETHING to learn to write, but people with a natural gift for creativity, language, and expression can make wonderful writers without necessarily being well-read. Conversely, I’d imagine that without some natural inclination towards these skills, becoming a skilled writer would be monumentally challenging.

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