We all have those writing cliches that bug us; trite sayings that hold some truth but are told so many times that they just… I don’t know…
They just bug us!
And this was one of those sayings that bugged me – “If you want to be a writer, you have to start by reading.”
Don’t get me wrong… Surely you can’t write unless you have the ability to read. Otherwise, you’re just marking random scribbles on paper or banging on a keyboard. And you can’t exactly proof, edit, or refine your writing unless you can read. And chances are that a love for reading helped your love of writing to bloom.
But honestly, that’s about where the relationship ends.
Saying that reading will make you a better writer is a bit like saying drinking a lot of milk will make you a better dairy farmer, or that flying a lot on a plane will make you a better pilot. No. Just… No.
What reading will do is help you to spur on your own imagination. It will keep your mind sharp. It will help you draw connections between plot twists and character flaws in such ways as the world has never seen. It will help you spot hole in others’ plots which will, in turn, help you avoid holes in your own. It will help you connect with not only the characters about whom you are reading but also the mind of their creator. And by being able to do all that, you will learn how to offer such a connection to your readers.
But it will not help you be a better writer.
The only way to get better at writing is to… wait for it…
Just like in baseball – when a player needs to work on catching the ball, he has someone throw it at him over and over and over again while he plays catch. He doesn’t just sit around and watch other players. He can learn tips, tricks, and some good form by watching others catch… but that’s it.
You can learn valuable tips, tricks, and good form by reading what others have written – but that’s it. To be a better writer, you have to write.
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