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Thursday, September 29, 2011

“In the past few years I've assigned books to be read before a student attends one of my weeklong seminars. I have been astonished by how few people -- people who supposedly want to write -- read books, and if they read them, how little they examine them.” ― Natalie Goldberg

When I started writing, one of the first rules I was told was “Read. Write. Don’t Stop.”

Often, I meet people who want to write or are writing, but who don’t read. Maybe they used to, but they just don’t have the time anymore. I think they view reading as a luxury. A leisure pursuit. Which it can be, but as a writer, it’s part of your craft.

As a writer, you learn to read differently. You may still read the same old fluff you always enjoyed, but now you look at it and decide which parts you admire, and which you would do differently. Read in and out of your genre, read anything and everything. Read writers whom you admire. Read classics. Read what you want to write.

I’ve heard some writers say they don’t read because they are afraid it will affect their ‘voice’ (the style in which they write). It probably will, but what you write probably won’t be derivative. What you read will join the rest of what you’ve read, and mingle and simmer in your head, and emerge as your very own style.

Art students used to copy the masters before they began painting on their own. Writing isn’t much different, except our medium is words rather than pigments. When you find a writer you particularly admire, try copying a few paragraphs or a few pages. Get the feel of their rhythm in your fingers as you type. Examine how they handle transitions and body language and dialogue. Learn from them.

Look at reading as study for your craft. Set aside time to read just the same as you set aside time to write.

If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write. --Stephen King

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