Reading to Write.

October 7, 2008

I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me.  I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life. As I see it today, the ability to read awoke in me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive. ~ Malcolm X

Books have always been my lifeblood.  Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you I’m known to have my nose stuck in a book.  My parents started reading to me at a very young age to help with my early mental development.  I was a natural, hungering for books of all kinds, feasting on them one-by-one until my teachers were struggling to replenish my supply.  In fact, my proficiency with reading was what caused them to push me ahead a year.

Perhaps some might think: What does reading have to do with writing?  My response…everything.  I truly believe that you must read enormous amounts in order to write well.  How else do we learn to write except from the words of others?  I personally view reading and writing as inseparable, one reflecting on the other.

These are the top three reasons I read to develop my writing skills:


  •  Critical reading skills translate into critical writing skills.  When researching subject areas, one must learn how to absorb and evaluate other texts.  From this ‘raw material’, a writer must then polish, refine, and shape these fragmented pieces of information, eventually connecting them into an understandable whole.  Learning how to read critically will inevitably help you write effectively.
  • Reading provides inspiration.  Reading can help you brainstorm and snowball your own ideas, providing valuable beginnings for your ongoing writing projects.  If you’re experiencing writer’s block, reading might be the best cure.  It will open your mind to new possibilities and perhaps invoke the inner muse you’ve been searching for.
  • Reading can make you aware of good writing vs. bad writing.  Ever read a book that made you snore in two seconds flat or gag due to poor style and flow?  How about one that made you turn the next page past the late midnight hour or tugged at your heartstrings?  Not only will reading help you recognize your own tastes, interests, and writing voice, but it will also signal the differences between good writing and bad writing.  When you learn to recognize what makes good or bad writing, this will help you avoid the pitfalls of those writers that made you cringe and imitate the ones that kept your attention.


  1. Sooo true. I did an interview for the Rose & Thorn Literary e-zine’s blog recently with 9 or so editors, and the majority of them answered “reading” to the question, “What can writers to do improve their craft?” (or something similar to that.)

  2. Wow, that’s really interesting! It is very true though. I believe strongly that the two go hand-in-hand.

  3. I disagree. I read very little, but I’d say my writing was at least fair. I don’t know how that happened, but it’s probably because I write a lot.

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