You can be a Reader and not be a Writer.
You cannot be a Writer without being a Reader, first and always.
No exceptions. No arguments. No Ifs, Ands, or Buts.
We learn to read before we learn to write. We learn to write well by continuing to read, forever and ever. No excuses like, “I’m too busy writing to make time to read,” or “I don’t want to be influenced by another author,” or “I’m afraid if I read a book while writing this one I’ll lose my unique voice.” No, no, and no, I reply. Not good enough, because as I said above, No Exceptions! And that means you, as well as every other Writer.
Sorry to have to bring out the tough love, folks, but I’m tired of hearing these excuses from too many of you. And I’ve said it all before. If you want to learn how to write … read, read, read! But some seem to need to be reminded. Again.
In order to be able to write well, think of reading in this way: You would never allow an untrained surgeon, one who doesn’t keep up with the latest advances in medicine, to operate on you; Or what about mechanics who have not gone through a lengthy apprenticeship and maintained their qualifications? Would you allow them to work on your car? I thought not.
So consider reading to be a major part of the apprenticeship of writing. And continuing to read, even while you write, is something like taking Professional Development Days to further improve your writing–-except that reading a good book is a lot more fun than attending those boring meetings.
Please note that I assume you wish to WRITE WELL so that Readers understand and appreciate whatever it is you are writing. I know anyone can “write words” without reading, but can you “write well”? Aye, there’s the rub! Besides which, it’s not a badge of pride to say you never read books, especially if you call yourself a Writer. As Mark Twain so aptly put it, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”
And just to prove how important reading is to this Writer, here’s a photo of part of my personal library . . . The rest of my books are around the corner in the kitchen, in a Calgary storage unit, at my trailer, and on my eReader. Yes, I’m bragging. Some of those books have been with me most of my life, longer than many of the people I know. Comforting that they’ll always be with me. If not physically, they’ll continue to travel with me in my mind.