Why writers *need* to be readers

thoughts orangutan

seinfeld gifSo a while back, I was following an indie writer (who shall remain nameless) that said they don’t read, because, and I quote “There are writers and then there are readers”. Now, I’ve mentioned this before, because YIKES that is a dreadful piece of advice, but even more so, it then made sense to me why I’d given said writer a 2 star rating. They’d taken an exciting premise and gone nowhere interesting with it. As for their second book, I couldn’t even get past the first chapter and cba anyway because the premise was so generic and I could figure out the plot twist right away. So it made me want to talk about why it is SO IMPORTANT that writers are readers- because there is no getting round how disastrous the consequences are if you’re not. Here are some reasons why writers need to read (if not ALL THE BOOKS as a lot of us are tempted to, at least A LOT OF THEM):

floundering gifNot reading guarantees authors to make mistakes and be unoriginal. As readers we know where common mistakes crop up and have probably seen them done *all the ways*. This doesn’t mean that we won’t ever get stuck, but at least we have a better idea of how to get out of it.

squeal gifBecause books give you EVEN MORE ideas! If you think reading will make your wellspring of inspiration run dry, think again! It’s actually the exact opposite- the more you read, the more doors in your mind open and the more possibilities you’ll find.


boromir deathReaders know what’s on trend and what’s been done to death. Readers know off the top of their head what’s going round at the moment and what’s dipping out of fashion. They don’t have to do extensive research, because they’ve been to a library or bookstore recently- which I guess is a form of research 😉

readingSimilarly, they know how to approach THE DREADED TROPES– readers have lots of preferences and know which ones work for them, which ones to tweak and which ones to steer well clear of. But you can’t know any of this without doing proper research, which, you guessed it, requires reading.

lord of the rings writing gifReaders are more likely to write for themselves– because, as I said, readers have an intuitive sense of what they do and do not like. This will mean they don’t have to write by committee, as I call it, and will actually put together a story that they personally enjoy first and foremost.

choose books2All the techniques y’all. I mean, if you actually want to learn from *the best* writing teachers, there is nothing better than cracking open a wonderful book and figuring out just how an author achieved such brilliance. It’s literally like being able to tap into the minds of all the geniuses that have gone before- and really, what author wouldn’t want to have access to that kind of knowledge?

experimentReading more will give you confidence to experiment! If a writer wants to avoid the “painting by numbers” phenomenon that I’ve seen emerge from people following rules to a T, they should READ MORE, because it will encourage them to try different things. Even better, they might start to innovate on their own and go onto do incredible things. I always love to give advice to dream big when it comes to art- the sky is far from the limit- and if you want to go out into the stratosphere you simply have to start somewhere. Books have more than a little magic to get you off the ground.

What do you think? Do writers need to be readers? Do you have any other reasons to add? Let me know in the comments!

110 thoughts on “Why writers *need* to be readers

  1. I couldn’t agree more with your post. Reading and writing both make me extremely excited and passionate. I couldn’t imagine someone not being passionate about books and yet wanting to create one.


  2. If you want to be a good writer, you HAVE to read. It’s literally that simple. Otherwise it’s like a chef who never tastes anyone else’s food. You won’t learn and you certainly won’t improve! I completely agree :).


  3. Really great post and I 100% agree with you, readers and writers are not mutually exclusive professions. A lot of writers are readers that have been inspired, of a way to write their own ideas. To me saying you can’t or shouldn’t do both is not only ridiculous, it’s also arrogant. That’s like saying there’s no room for improvement.

    Some of the best authors I’ve read books by, are avid readers themselves. They have a tribe within the community and read each others books. Not only is this very supportive, but it also helps them stay relevant and up to date with what readers demand from the genre.


  4. Reading “There are writers and then there are readers” actually made me laugh. It’s just absolutely ridiculous. Reading and writing go together, it’s like debating what came first – the chicken or the egg. How can anyone trust a writer that doesn’t read? It’s like a designer not wearing clothes, walking around butt naked.


  5. I nod in agreement. Recently, I chatted a little with an indie writer who boasted “I didn’t read any book since 2012 and still I can pen down 1000 words/day”. Made me shy away from geniuses of this stature.


  6. But writing is reading??? I’m literally reading as I’m writing this. Why make something your job if you don’t enjoy it?

    To get slightly technical, you need to double loop learn something before you’re good at it (I hope this is a real concept not just something one of my lecturers made up). Anyone can single loop learn – essentially you can parrot some facts about something – but to double loop learn it means you actually understand the context of a concept – why it was created, what are the issues with it, how does it fit with similar concepts etc. You do this by reading around the subject (how many times have we all been told by do that) so I’d suggest that if you’re not reading widely then you’re not fully engaging with the craft of writing – and that makes you a bad writer.


  7. I am a writer BECAUSE of my love of reading. Reading was–and still is–my favorite method of equal parts escape and inspiration. I can’t imagine being able to successfully (whatever the definition of THAT is) write without the benefit of all the stuff that has collected in my head over the years thanks to reading. And thanks to YOU for this!


  8. If I could express one caveat is that writers need to read anything and everything – which is true, because if you don’t, there will be new ideas bouncing around on your head. But you don’t have to force yourself to read something you don’t like just to say you’re a reader is pushing yourself to no longer enjoy your craft because everything is a slog.
    But you have to read. And just keep reading. And writing. And most importantly, enjoying.


  9. I don’t understand how you can be a writer and not read. Like it makes me sense to me mainly for the reasons you mentioned but in my mind if you love writing surely you love reading as well? The two just go hand in hand in my mind.
    I love writing but I love reading even more. It gives me so many ideas and so much inspiration and basically you’ve hit the nail on the head with the reasons you mentioned in your post.
    Great post as well. 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree! If you write, you must love to read! It is selfish to just read your own words. We can learn so much from different voices, and reading lets us do that.


  10. I have never thought about this because honestly… I assumed all writers read at least a little bit for the reasons you mentioned. I have friends that are writers and participate in writing groups, and I feel like that experience as well as reading widely strengthens the craft of the writer. Working in a vacuum and assuming you know how the craft works without interacting with (via reading) from others in the field is to me the height of hubris.

    Interesting post!


  11. I find it very odd that a writer would not be a reader? Would a artist not look at artwork of others? It just doesn’t make sense. Excellent points made. I would also add that reading reviews of books that are doing well (and those that are not doing well) would probably also be beneficial. A writer could get a lot of insight from reviews of the works of others.


  12. For me, it seems intuitive that writing and reading go hand-in-hand 😊 Being an avid reader inspired me to become a writer, and being a reader has inspired me and taught me so many things as a writer. I definitely think that someone can be a passionate reader without loving writing, but it definitely doesn’t work the other way around.

    This was a great post! I really enjoyed reading it! 😊


  13. Too true! Well said too. I am a self proclaimed reader and writer! Since writing in fact, my reading has increased. I wake up earlier before work now to ensure I dedicate enough time to reading 🙂 very excellent article


  14. I can’t believe a writer would say that. First of all I think everyone should read, but it’s probably even more important to we an avid reader if you have some type of career in writing. This post is great and I am so glad you shared this with us, you made some fantastic points here.


  15. My brain actually refuses to understand that “writer’s” point of view. Reading is our biggest learning tool! Like you said, there’s a ton of techniques to look at and learn from. Yikes is right. We do *need* to be readers.


  16. It seems very odd to me that someone who writes novels wouldn’t read them. Then again, I’ve met a lot of people who write poetry who don’t actually read it (they mostly write crappy poetry).


  17. I wholeheartedly believe that reading is the biggest form of research as a writer. I probably spend 70% of my time reading VS 30% writing and I’ve learnt so much! What to do, what not to do. Quotes I like. It gets my creative juices flowing. It literally becomes my research as if reading a textbook.


  18. A writer who doesn’t read…is like a runner who doesn’t walk or something of that absurdity. While it’s good that a writer reads books that are professional published and out there, I think we can add “read books written by other amateurs”.

    I have found time and again that reading other people’s drafts helps ME grow as a writer. I read paragraphs that make zero sense and realize I’ve been doing the same thing. OR, I will see an expression that I have never thought of before or a way of describing a scene that I have never thought of before.

    Not to say I’ll be copying their style but learning from it and putting my own spin on it.


  19. So many good reasons! An excuse I’ve heard a couple of times from writers for not reading is that they think it’s going to interfere with or influence their work, with the suggestion that they want to write something original and uninfluenced… and the funny thing is it always seems to have the opposite effect (i.e. the work ends up being very unoriginal because they don’t know what’s been done to death already – just like in the example you described).
    Anyway, great post!!


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