Friday, June 20, 2014

Secrets from Professional Writers (Part 4 of 10)

(an encore post)

4. We Read. A Lot. Often. Constantly.

As serious writers, we read, and we do so in a variety of areas, always seeking to know more about writing and about our world. We read in our genre, but we read outside our field.

Too often I meet want-to-be writers who don't read—people who don't like to read—and yet they feel they must write. That doesn't make sense to me. Someone said it's like hating horses while raising herds of them, and lecturing around the country on how to love your horse. It's not only hypocritical; it won't work.

Professional writers don't like to read---they're compulsive and must read. They snatch minutes whenever possible to fill their eyes and minds with words and new thoughts.

Words are our tools and we examine their meanings. We feel them and we learn to distinguish between when to use small or littletinyminiscule, or minute. We read and pick up nuances of meaning, marvel at the expressive efforts of others, or groan at the lack of skill in our own manuscripts.

We absorb techniques and ideas when we read, mostly unconsciously. We find ourselves absorbed and challenged by writers who are better than we are. And there are always writers who are superior.

We read for pleasure but even then we read to learn and to grow. Every article or book we read becomes a teacher. As we read, we ask questions. Why did she start the story there? What does that word mean? Why did he use the subjunctive mood?

Professional writers are compulsive readers.


  1. Even cereal boxes before computers and laptops provided fodder for reading. Something to stand up while I was eating. The Betty Crocker cook book was my medium for stories before I could read as I drew in the margins while my mother baked. .I guess my favorite reading room was the kitchen as a child.

    1. Mollie, long ago (before the internet) I heard that the world can be divided into two categories: readers and non-readers. You can identify the readers--they read cereal boxes.

  2. I started keeping a list of the books I read, On this list I also note whether it was for pleasure, for review, or for a small group at church. Right now, I am at 18.

  3. I tend to read VERY serious non fiction material due to my interests and educational goals (I am 69 and just returned to get my SW Degree), and every now and then, I almost feel a spiritual mandate to read totally unrelated fiction. Right now I am reading a book by Eric La Salle, "Laws of Depravity" and will follow that with his "Laws of Wrath" before my next semester starts and I read fun books like, 'Ethics in Social Work'.


What are your thoughts?