By: Tia Love
A huge part of writing involves reading. I don’t think there’s a way around that. The two kind of go hand in hand; they’re dating as a matter of fact. Engaged, even. They just completed their registry at target so you might as well get real familiar with them as a couple. Anything you can get your hands on, read. If you have a favorite author, read them often. Make sense?
Like in any profession, you can’t really succeed if you haven’t studied those who did it before you and perfected the craft. Reading offers an opportunity to gauge different writing styles and the different ways writers manipulate language. You have to learn all the rules before you can bend and break them. The next time you read your favorite book, switch the lenses you read it with. As this is probably your fifty-third time reading this book, you can afford to look over it with a new set of eyes. Ask yourself a few questions. Why do you like this book so much? What about the characters makes this particular book a page turner? How does the author use language to pull you in? I would recommend taking notes as you read.
For example, my favorite author is Eric Jerome Dickey. All of the books I own by him are highlighted and have little notes written in the margins. whenever I crack open one of those books, I can read it from the point of view of the writer and the reader, taking cues from it that eventually help my own writing.
Don’t just read books though, even if you want to write novels. Read your city’s daily newspaper. Not only is it a distinct style of writing you should pay attention to, there’s ALWAYS something going on in there worth your time. Read the horoscopes (this usually helps with building characters). At the doctor’s office and been waiting awhile? Check out one of the many magazines they have laying around. Pamphlets? yep! Signs? Of course! The bible? Now you’re getting the hang of this.
Think of reading as a big chunk of the syllabus for Writing 101. While you’re studying pioneers of the art, you’re also gathering ideas, inspiration, and building your vocabulary. About 95% of my extensive vocabulary comes from having read so many books. Its a win-win situation. If you consider yourself a writer and want to be taken seriously, study the art.
Before I go, I want to share something with you. I went to an art show over the weekend and one of the artists was displaying a painting of a Wisconsin Food Stamps debit card. When I asked him about it, he said that his professor told him to paint food. Initially, I was impressed, but as I looked closer at the painting, my mind was blown. Bordering the painting, he had printed and taped pictures of famous paintings of food. So in his piece he paid homage to those before him and trailblazed his own path.
Go into the world and read, future writer, and you do the same.