Read More to Write Better

Read More to Write BetterThe other day my friend said, “I think I’m going to write a book.”

To which I nodded and said, “Okay, what’s it going to be about.”

He paused, staring at the place where the wall and ceiling meet. “Not sure. Hey, do you read much?”

“Not as much as I should,” I replied. “I don’t have that much time anymore between working, writing, and family stuff, but I read a ton a few years ago.”

“Hmmm.” All expression drained from his face. “I’ve never really read anything, so how do you write a book?”

I was completely perplexed by what just transpired. He admitted his biggest flaw, then asked me for help in the same sentence? What was I to say? What would any hard-working writer say?

I stared at my friend, secretly wishing the phone would ring so I could rush to answer it. “Well, you just have to sit down and write your book.” I withheld my bout of sarcastic laughter. “Some people write an outline to guide them, others just sit and write – that’s what I do most of the time.”

My thoughts raced back to one of my idols, Stephen King. In his book On Writing: A memoir of the craft, he wrote, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

So here’s my first bit of advice for all would-be writers out there: Read something every day.

Don’t whine to me that you’re too busy. I’m busy too. Most days I’m lucky as hell if I get three hours of uninterrupted sleep. Somehow I still find time to read, write, research future projects, market myself, and that’s between working 12-hour shifts at a hospital, cooking dinner, raising a kid, romancing my wife, and doing all the other pain-in-the-ass stuff I need to survive. I will admit that I have hired a housekeeper who cleans up after me twice a month, so I probably have a little more time to write now that I’m not vacuuming and dusting.

Here are a few things I do to help me get my reading in:

  1. Keep a book of short stories on top of the toilet. Laugh if you want, but we all have to sit for a bit to do our business, and having a short story around helps pass the time. If you plan on filling the bath for a bubbly soak, the book is just a short reach away.
  2. If you have an iPhone or other smartphone, download an ebook app. Personally, I prefer the Kindle app because it will sync my current place in a story with my main kindle. I may not have my eReader with me all the time, but my iPhone is practically grafted to my hand. If I have downtime while waiting someplace, I always have a story at my fingertips. I also use the Pulse news app, so I always have plenty of articles to read as well.
  3. Read before bed. Not tired yet, but tired of staring at reruns? Try reading about 30 minutes before your normal bedtime. You may wind up reading until the wee hours if you got your hands on a real good book.

I could tell you to watch less TV, or ignore your children, but let’s be realistic. We’re all busy, and some things must come first. But if you ever hope to write something good, that actually sells, it’s going to take far more time and effort than you could ever imagine.

Take that first step by making some time to read. Study the words you’re reading, all the way from their use to their layout on the page. Grab a book of the best-seller list and give it a go, then ask yourself, “What makes this a best-seller?”

If you don’t know what to read, then take a gamble. I’m sure some writer out there will appreciate you’re reading their work. Who knows, maybe it will happen to you one day, and that random stranger could become your biggest fan.

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