A poster hanging in a classroom at my high school says “Writers read. Writers read a lot.” Reading and writing are not exclusive. Those who read more are more likely to write more, and those who are writers are prolific readers. While reading can undoubtedly improve one’s writing, how does the reverse work?
First of all, when you write you read what you write, thereby increasing your amount of reading. In addition, you read critically, trying to identify positives and negatives within your writing. You read the flow, context, alliteration, and grammar. By critiquing your own writing your become a more discerning reader. You judge other writing in comparison with your own writing, forcing you to pay more attention and study differences between your prose and poetry and that of others.
After you have become a regular writer you no longer just sit and read idly, absorbing words and sentences without thinking. Instead, you are actively comparing and contrasting, paying attention to grammar and word choice. Is the author using a firm, active voice? Is he or she good at character development or do characters remain undefined, allowing the action to take precedence? By looking for details to compare with your own writing you end up absorbing much more knowledge and context from the reading.
By feeling a sense of competition with other authors you study their writing like you would study an opposing team’s playbook. What strategies of theirs are effective? Which are ineffective? Which tools of theirs could you incorporate to good effect into your own writing? Breaking down the writing as well as viewing it as a whole presents the reader with a whole tapestry of literature. No longer do you skim books and articles, receiving a mental sketch of the information, but instead you create an elaborate three-dimensional rendering as the result of deep reading.
As you want to learn how to be a better writer you take pains to seek out good, thought-provoking literature. You become a discerning, active reader rather than a passive reader who simply skims whatever book or text comes his or her way. The good stuff is sought and the weak and mediocre stuff is ignored, helping reading become a potent, enriching activity. Reading is now enjoyable and provides rich food for thought. As a result, you truly want to read and want to excel at deep reading. No longer do you simply read to “get by” and decipher instructions or get a few crude chuckles.
By becoming a prolific writer you have also, inadvertently, become a master reader. You read faster, with greater depth and understanding, and can identify building blocks of sentences, paragraphs, and stories. You recognize rhyme scheme, alliteration, irony, and theme. Reading becomes something in which you take pride, making you want to continually get better at it. The authors and works you have read become a point of pride and you list them among your influences. Reading becomes an experience and a pastime, not a chore, as you collect favorite books as a literary connoiseur.
So read, write, repeat, and improve at both! As author Stephen King says, “if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write,” reports quotationspage.com.