Make Reading Work for You

By February 21, 2011Writing about Writing

One of the most important things for bettering your writing is something that feels it is frequently forgotten.  When you think of English class in high school it involves reading and writing.  Since then we tend to separate the two as different elements of a larger pedagogy, when in fact that does not have to be the case.  You don’t have to simply think about writing as something you do to analyze reading, and instead you can use reading to aid in your own betterment as a writer.As a creative writing student, I always get the same advice from people when I mention being blocked.  Read something…and not just one thing but a lot of things from a lot of different categories.  It feels odd.  If I’m a writer I should really be writing all day everyday right?  Wrong!

If you’ve ever been desperately writing a paper that you forgot about for a book you have not read (not that I would ever do such a crazy thing) you know that reading really is an essential part of how we write.  Most recently I have found that knowing what’s out there in the world of fiction has helped to broaden my own skills as a writer and eliminate formulaic elements of genre within my own writing to create something that reaches across genres.

Now what if you’re not a creative writer.  Well, arguably we are all creative in our writing, but maybe you are not prone to pick up a pen and write out an epic poem or novel.  Reading works for you too.  The best advice I have received is to read your favorites or people you want to emulate immediately before writing.  If you’re about to write an introduction read the introductory paragraphs of the articles you are using for research.  If you’re embarking on a long journey of writing a paper, spend five minutes of your time putting yourself in context through works similar to what you are trying to accomplish.

The best part about this little trick is that it works.  After reading a brief segment sit down at the keyboard and not only will the writing flow a little easier from your fingertips, but you may find that it will be more focused as well.  By reading right before, you have put yourself in the mental frame of the context of what you need to write.  It does not have to be a long segment and you do not have to be searching for inspiration in a text, just a little encouragement and context.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Joe Olivier says:

    I agree, Kelsey, that reading a wide range of genres can be important to developing your own voice or writing style. The easiest way for me to read across a wide variety of genres on a frequent basis is by subscribing to magazines. My hands down favorite is Harper’s‘s, which features all sorts of writing (and artwork too).

    Do you have your own method of reading across many genres?