Read to Write: How Reading Makes You a Better Writer

So, you want to be a writer? That’s awesome! What do you like to write? Who inspired you?

What do I mean by that? I mean, what authors have you read that inspired you to write? Was it J.R.R. Tolkein or C.S. Lewis? Stephen King or Neil Gaiman? Maurice Sendak or E.B. White?

No one? But how do you know you want to write, if you haven’t read anything?

Reading isn’t important to writing? Of course it is! Here, let me give you a few reasons how reading can make you a better writer.

Reading and Writing are Taught Together

In the early years of school, you might remember being taught reading AND writing in the same unit. The two skills are mutually exclusive: one cannot be mastered without the aid of the other.

Let’s look at the basics. If you don’t learn how to read, you won’t know how to put the letters of the alphabet together to form words. Nor will you know how to put those words into complete sentences and paragraphs. Likewise, if you never master the mechanics of writing and spelling, reading will always be a chore for you.

When it comes to writing fiction, poetry, or nonfiction, if you don’t read other books, poems, or articles, how can you be inspired? How can you know how a story or poem looks, or how an article should flow?

Reading Disabilities

What’s that, you say? You have a reading disability that makes learning how to read difficult?

Reading is essential for a child’s success. All too often, the barriers faced by children with difficulty reading outweigh their desire to read and, without proper guidance, they never overcome them.” (PBS.org The Importance of Reading).

I understand that disabilities such as dyslexia, alexia, aphantasia, and others make reading a very arduous task. But with the proper tools and guidance, anyone with any difficulty can learn how to read and become an author.

To show you just how possible it is to push past your learning disabilities, here is a short list of well-known authors that became popular despite their struggles with reading and writing:

  • Agatha Christie: Struggled with dyspraxi and spelling. Sold four billion copies of her books.
  • Stephen J. Cannell (A-Team, Rockford Files, 21 Jump Street): Dyslexia. He even spoke out about the disability and discussed his struggles in his documentatry Dislecksia: The Movie.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald: Dyslexia. He was even kicked out of school for not being able to finish assignments, and yet he pressed on to write The Great Gatsby.
  • Scott Adams: The creator of the comic strip Dilbert also struggled with dyslexia.

And that’s just a few of them. Read this article to find out many more success stories from successful writers who struggled with learning disabilities.

How do you get the help you need to be able to work past your reading difficulties? Many local colleges and universities have programs that help adults with reading and learning disabilities. You can also check your local library, as they may also know of free options that would help you.

Finding the Time

But, Rose, my life is just too busy. I simply don’t have the time to read!

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ~ Stephen King.

Making time to sit down and open a book has always been one of my greatest pleasures, but when I entered parenthood it quickly disappeared from my daily schedule. But I know just how important it is to keep my reading skills alive, so it is something I strive to do. Sometimes it takes the form of reading a book to Evie (which benefits her as well), or finding a fun short story on Steem to read. And every now and then, when I’m feeling extra motivated and have some quiet time, I’ll pull out my Nook or an actual book to read.

Reading, especially for pleasure, gives you a chance to immerse yourself into someone else’s world. It gives you a chance to read without having to be critical. To look past the differences in writing styles and enjoy the world that this author has created. And by doing so, you open yourself up to new ideas and ways to explore. You find skills you can take away to apply to your own writing, thereby developing your own style of storytelling, and you increase your vocabulary.

Go Read Something…Then Go Write

Are you a writer or a reader? Be both!

Have learning disabilities? Find ways to work through your struggles and overcome. Your reading disability will affect your writing, so if you don’t work through it at the reading level, you’ll never be able to write.

Can’t find the time? Make the time! If you don’t get into the practice of making the time to read, you won’t be able to make the time to write, either.

The bottom line is:  you can’t have writing without reading. Reading is an essential skill to have if you want to be a writer. Whatever your struggle is with reading, I believe in you. I know you can do this. You need to believe it yourself.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do. See ya!

P.S. Over at The Writers’ Block we have a book club where each month we choose a book to read and then write a review. If you’re looking for book ideas, come check us out (just click the blocks below). For more info, read this post.




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