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Five reasons why reading is important to writers

Welcome to episode five of the podcast A Year of Writing. This is a podcast about productivity, writing and marketing. Today I wanted to talk to you about why reading is so important to everyone that writes.

The topics that we’re going to go through today are 5 reasons why you should read more. 

  1. It makes you a better writer. 
  2. You get ideas from reading. 
  3. You learn story structure. 
  4. You improve your language. 
  5. You become more empathic by reading. 

Let’s deep dive into these five reasons. 

The reason why reading makes you a better writer is because everything you read influences what you write. And the more you read, the more you learn about the art of writing. You can learn different techniques from other writers, like how to do world building from J.K. Rowling, or how to write thrilling stories from Dan Brown. 

When you read, you can analyze the way different authors do stuff, like:

  • How do they create dynamic dialogue? 
  • How do they create the faster pace in the story? 
  • What kind of plot turns do they use? 
  • How do they solve problems that show up in the manuscript?

Reading also familiarizes you with different styles of writing, and it can also make you think: could I have written this? Could I have written this better? And if you think that you could have written the story better, that is a way that your motivate yourself to write a great story. Which is awesome because you can learn from their mistakes instead of making them yourself. 

And the books we read as children influences what kind of books we write. When we get older, by learning from the masters, by reading some of the great, the master’s books, they become our unofficial mentors. And if you read a lot of great books, you can be mentored by some of the greatest authors in the world. 

Number two, you get ideas from reading. You can get ideas on how to solve plot holes when you read other people’s manuscripts, other people’s books. And it helps with research. If you want to learn about a specific time period or a specific thing read stories that take place in that particular time period. It also encourages your imagination. 

I love this quote by Adora Wiley 

A reader lives a thousand lives before she dies. A person who does not read only lives one. 

Adora Wiley 

And I completely agree. The more we read, the more our imagination becomes alive. And it’s like we merge with the characters in the book. And that, at least for me, is super inspiring. And I get a lot of ideas from it. 

Natalie Forslind surrounded by books in Amsterdam.

And another quote from one of the great masters of writing, Stephen King, is: 

Reading is at the creative center of the writer’s life. If you do not have time to read, you do not have time or the tools to write. It’s as simple as that. 

Stephen King

Reading also improves your vocabulary. If you read books, you will encounter words you don’t understand, and you will have to look them up. But the more you read and the more words you have, it’s like getting more tools into your toolbox which you can use later, which you later can use in your manuscript. And one thing that I do when I find a quote that I like or a sentence that I think is very beautiful, is that I highlight it. I actually save it into an app called Readwise, which has all the highlights from both fiction and nonfiction that I read. So I can go back to it and look at it again later. And in physical books, I do actually also highlight with a pen and post it notes. Because I love reading and I want to learn from other great writers and become as good as they are, or better. 

Another way that reading improves your language is because you get to study grammar in a context. I understand how a sentence should look, and I know what’s right and wrong, but I’m not that good at saying what an adverb or a verb is. I don’t know all the words for it or what to say, but I know that in context, when I see a sentence, I can tell you if it’s right or wrong. So that’s a great way for you to improve your writing.

Reading also makes you more empathic. There was a study at the New School of New York that found evidence that reading fiction actually improves people’s way to relate to other people. You feel more empathic towards others and to understand what other people are thinking and feeling if you read a lot. This is awesome because through fiction, we can actually see the world through other people’s eyes. We can experience what it’s like to be another gender, have another sexuality, another ethnicity, and experience stuff that we would not be able to experience. Words on a page can actually introduce you to what it’s like to lose a child, what it’s like living in a war zone, what it’s like being a refugee, what it’s like being poor. This makes us more empathic towards other people that has been through the things we read about. 

It helps us influence and relate to other people in the world. One thing that I’ve found is that when you read, sometimes you learn about human psychology. But if you reverse that, when you write, you have to understand human psychology to be able to create good, dynamic, three dimensional characters. Because you can’t just have a character that’s all through, say, a good person. Because no one in the real world is like that. Everyone has flaws, everyone has something that drives them. Everyone has both good and bad sides. And this is really important to understand when you write. 

Some of the excuses I’ve heard from other writers when they say that they don’t read is that they don’t have time to read. Well, I tell them that if you don’t have time to read, then you don’t have time to write. You can make time to read, you can listen to an audiobook or you can read a book on your commute to work. You can choose to read before bed instead of watching Netflix or honestly, go into your phone. How much time you spend on different apps? Do you need to spend one or 2 hours on TikTok every day? Or could you use one of those hours for reading? In the end, we choose what we spend our time on. And not having time means that you don’t prioritize reading – because we can always make time for the things that really matters to us. And I think that if you want to become a great writer, you should read. Because in the end, reading is what made us want to become writers. 

And some writers, they claim that when they are writing, they don’t want to be influenced by other writers. They don’t want to be influenced by their style or whatever. And this is also something that I don’t buy. Because in today’s digital world, where we, you know, get entertainment wherever we go, you will – whether you read or not – be influenced by other things. You will be influenced by the TV,  series you stream what you read in the paper. You would have to go completely offline not to be influenced by others. So I don’t think that not reading won’t help, to be honest. 

To conclude this episode, reading is one of the most important parts of becoming a great writer. I would also say that if you want to become a great writer, you need to understand what is expected of you within the genre that you’re writing. Let’s say I’m writing a romance novel. I need to understand what makes a great romance novel. What do I need to have? 

  • I need to have a meet cute. 
  • I need to have a build up. 
  • I do need to have a plot turn where everything goes south and they may not end up together. 
  • And then I need to have a happy ending. 

And once I know the tools, since I’ve read a lot of romance books, I can use the tools and maybe even break the rules just to create a great story. But, yeah, to be able to do that, I still need to read a lot. And I think you should do, too. 

My reading goal for the year is to read 100 books. I am currently more than halfway through, so I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. I read a lot of physical books, ebooks and listen to audiobooks. I read within different genres, both fiction and nonfiction. And if you have any tips on great books that I should read, please send them to me. Send me a DM on Instagram:

I hope this encourages you to make time to read more. I know it can be hard sometimes. But I need to be frank and say that in the end, it’s also a choice that you make to prioritize something else instead of reading. Because most of us don’t work twenty four seven. 

I hope you like this episode. Thank you so much for listening. Please subscribe. It really helps me. Have a great day. 

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