Before I ever even knew what I was doing, before I decided writing was my life, before all the dreams started piling up, before all of that, I knew that when I read I could write better.
For many years I'd return to the books I'd loved in my girlhood, one in particular. When ever I was in a writing slump and my writing had lost a little sparkle, I'd reread this one book. There was nothing special about it, exactly, except that I loved it, and the author's writing gave me something. It settled the wild chaos of storming worries and self-doubts. Her flow and simplicity of words grounded me. They gave me something to write up to, a ruler by which to measure my own writing. This book would say to me, "There now, wasn't that simple? All this story out of a few words. It's not that hard. You can do it."
And magically, I could write again.
I know, I know. You have little enough time to write during as it is . . .
Why Take the Time to Read?
I believe it wasn't just the magic the book held for me, but it was also the magic of reading the written word. The arc and flow of the words, the sentence structure, and its ability to draw me so completely into its world. This, I know now, is what made writing magic for me.
Reading books unstuck words and created flow and movement. This showed me time and time again what writing was supposed to feel like, look like, read like, and taste like. This is why you should read before writing. All good writers read good books. This is what makes a good writer.
Make it a practice to read
Practice makes perfect, and practice brings you back to earth every single time. Following a pattern, like reading before you write, will help you sink into the creative mindset. It will melt your resistance. When it's time to write and you sit down and grab a book you'll be delighted instead of anxiously wringing your hands, wondering what on earth you should write. Your worries will have time to pass, your dread will be smoothed by the words of a fellow writer and your creativeness will be inspired.
Read Writing Books & Fiction Books
Read your favorite books, read books on writing, on creating stories, on structure, on world building. Read books with voices you adore and want to emulate. Read books strong with emotion and feeling, books that hit that hard spot right inside you every time and burst you wide open.
My go to books:
The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Bird by Bird, Ann Lamott
Structuring Your Novel, K.M. Weiland
All these books have spoken to me in each of their own unique ways and have filled very different voids. You need to find the books that do the same for you.
You'll become resigned to your fate
That sounds harsh. But truly, those of us who come back to writing again and again know we will never be free of it.
Can I really write? Do I really have what it takes? Reading before you write silences these doubts because you will see how others have done it before you and though sometimes it will look impossible you will see it can be done, and you won't have an excuse. You're in this for good.
Let's talk! What does your pre-writing routine look like? Tell us about it in the comment section below!