I think by now most writers have received the message: you should be reading. Stephen King puts it plainly: “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
Most writers come to the page because we’re already book lovers, so it’s hardly a burden to be told that doing more of what made us fall in love in the first place is part of our job. Sure, we get busy and impatient and caught up and occasionally have to remind ourselves to read, but by and large, any writer is thrilled to be reading. We know, intuitively, that reading gives us power. Creative inspiration, education, industry knowledge, and more. We learn from reading.
But when was the last time you thought about how, exactly, you’re learning from what you’re reading? When did you last chase inspiration with dedicated intent? When did you last study not just the books themselves, but why you’ve chosen the books you’ve chosen?
As with any endeavor, routine can build good habits, but it can also become mundane. It’s harder to find inspiration when you know exactly what to expect, and it’s harder to be surprised when you’re doing exactly what you always do. So my suggestion for writers today is this: change up your reading habits.
If you always read within your writing genre, bust out. If you stick to literary or commercial fiction, try swapping them. Try mixing them. Risk reading a few things you may hate, because that’s also how you find brand new things you love. (And even things we hate have things to teach us.)
Switch up not only the types of books you’re reading, but the format. Always read paperback? Get an e-reader. Always read digital? Try listening to an audiobook. Used to reading long novels? Try a serial novella in an online magazine. Always read short stories in literary journals? Pick up a pocket-sized poetry collection.
It might sound silly, but these things matter. They affect the reading experience, the way we process the information, the speed and manner in which we process the stories themselves. An audiobook, read well, can drastically change a book you didn’t care for in high school. An old favorite read by the author might make you see entirely new aspects of the story, or the prose. If you’ve been raised on screens, taking time to read silently on paper might reshape your experience. [Read more…]