3 Surprising Ways Reading Can Improve Your Writing

As a self-published writer, you’ve probably tried out plenty of tricks to help improve your writing…a writing prompt every day, writer’s block exercises, or even working with a skilled editor to help sharpen your work. 

Sp 019 howreadingmakesyouabetterwriter

But you may be forgetting one of the most simple yet crucial tricks of the trade: reading.  

The benefits of reading regularly go far beyond improving your vocabulary. Even just the recommended 30 minutes a day can make a significant difference. 

Making reading a habit can also help you improve concentration, hone in on your voice, and keep new ideas coming.

Read on (get it?) to learn how reading can make you a better writer.

Reading Improves Concentration and Memory

Imagine this scenario: You finally find time to sit down and work on the self-published book you’ve been writing. You can’t wait to add the idea you had last night into your new chapter. But wait...what was that idea again? Better check your phone notes. 

Sound familiar?

Before you know it, 30 minutes have gone by and you’ve skipped past your phone notes to post a couple of the vacation photos you forgot about. 

A lack of concentration can happen to all of us. It can also take from your writing time and skills. 

But the act of reading is in-and-of-itself an exercise in concentration

Studies have shown that those who read regularly experience cognitive decline at slower rates. Reading stimulates the part of the brain that controls both memory and concentration

That means not only will you be less likely to get distracted next time you sit down to write, but you may even remember that idea you had without reaching for your notes.

Reading Helps You Develop Your Writer’s Voice

Your writer’s voice is what sets you apart from other authors. Having a clear voice in your writing is crucial to helping readers connect with your characters and ideas.

As Stephen King once said, “The best way to develop your writer’s voice is to read a lot and write a lot. There’s really no other way to do it.”

Exposing yourself to new reading material helps you better identify what makes up a clear writer’s voice, and ways you can better express ideas. 

The more you read work that resounds with you, the more you’ll be able to echo the traits of the author’s voice into your own. 

Reading Sparks New Ideas

Opening a new book is also a way to open yourself to new ideas. By exploring the ideas, worlds, and styles of others, you can expand the horizons of your own writing. 

Reading can help you overcome creative plateaus by constantly exposing yourself to new words, scenes and concepts. 

The fact that reading improves your vocabulary can also aide in your creativity. 

Oftentimes when you lack the words to express an idea, you’re at risk of never having it. An expanded vocabulary means a larger capacity to receive and express new ideas.

Reading Reduces Stress

Reading can also help reduce stress. Chronic stress is shown to cause our brains to go into auto-pilot, a mode where there’s no room for new ideas. 

One study showed that a mere 6 minutes of reading can reduce your stress level by 68%. According to the David Lewis, the neuropsychologist who conducted the study, “Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation. Reading can become your distraction from everyday worries and anxiety, and you can feel more freedom.”

Tips to Becoming a Better Reader

Now that you’re well versed in the hidden benefits reading can have on your writing, it’s time to ensure that you make sure your reading routine and selections are effective. 

Follow these steps to reap all the rewards reading has to offer your writing skills:

Respond to the ideas you read

If something you read evokes strong emotion in you, whether it be anger, distaste or overwhelming joy, take the time to explore that feeling and respond to it.

Whether you write a comment in the book margins or an argument on the author’s forum, you’re learning to involve yourself in the text. It can also help you better understand the relationship between what you read and how it affects your writing. 

Step out of your comfort zone

If you’re a sci-fi fanatic, try a romance novel. Strictly a non-fiction reader? Find a fiction book about a subject or character that intrigues you. Moving out of your comfort zone allows more room for creativity. And exposing your mind to variety will show through in your writing. 

Don’t be afraid to skim

Skipping sections of a piece to determine if it’s worthwhile will save you time in your reading selection. 

Skimming through sections can also help you focus on important highlights only, and in turn remember more of what you read. 

Know when to quit

Reading should be enjoyable. If you find yourself feeling like a book is an obligatory read or checking the clock every few minutes to see if you can put it down yet, you won’t reap the full benefits of reading. 

Know when to say goodbye and choose a new book. Chances are you’re the only person stopping yourself from moving on to a book that may be more useful to your writing. 

Consider switching it up if a few red flags pop up such as:

  • You don’t like the characters
  • There are a distracting amount of errors
  • You just don’t look forward to reading it (yawn)

So head over to your nearest bookstore or library and reignite your love for reading by picking out a few new reads. 

You’ll be surprised at the directions it could take your writing. Once the inspiration is flowing, keep it going with these tried and true ways that writers stay inspired >

Adam user

President & CEO,
Steuben Press

Adam Ellis has worked in the book industry since 2002, when he was first exposed to the wonderful world of Self Publishing. Over the years he has worked with thousands of authors and helped to produce, print and publish countless books.

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