Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Read Like Your Life Depends On It

If I had one piece of advice for new authors, it’s read, read, read.

It’s just like “You are what you eat.” You write what you read. Reading teaches you about the patterns of literature, the limits of words, the methods you can use, the styles you can explore, rules to keep, and rules to break. It molds your brain into patterns that you will follow when you write.

Reading teaches you how to think. Our experiences as individuals are astoundingly limited, and the only way to see the world is to listen, to pay attention, and, of course, to read.

Isaac Newton said he was successful because he stood on the shoulders of giants. If it weren't for the work of other scientists and if he hadn't been familiar with their work  he wouldn't have made his revolutionary discoveries. When we learn about literature, we also stand on the shoulders of giants.

A professor once told me a story about a student who wanted to be a poet. The professor read his poems and was shocked by how awful they were. He asked him what he was reading, and the student proudly announced he didn’t read poetry because he didn’t want to be influenced by other authors. He prefered to be individual and unique.

The professor wasn’t surprised by his answer. If the student never read a poem, how could he possibly know how to write one?

I understand the student’s concern. If a writer only read one author, or only one genre, he’d probably regurgitate old ideas. The key is to read so many authors from so many genres that you are influenced by hundreds of people. When you read widely, you develop a unique mix of your own style.

I can’t stress this enough: read, read, read.

But read good books. Don’t read trash.

Unless you want to write trash. Then you can read as much trash as you want.

My favorite website in the world is It’s like Facebook, but with a focus on books. It’s easy to find good books, you can post and rate books on your profile, you can read updates on published authors, and you can swap your books with other readers for free. You’re welcome to add me as a friend; I’d love to see what you’re reading and to share books I like with you.

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to add a comment!

    Reading opens the mind
    to other worlds, other possibilities.
    This weak mind creates ideas that wash away as quickly as they take existence.
    Where is the book stimulates my brain?
    Where is the book that engages my thoughts?


I love hearing from my readers!

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