“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time, or the tools, to write. Simple as that.”
– Stephen King
Reading is a passion of mine.
Since I learnt how to read, I don’t think I’ve spent a single day not lost in words. Whenever I have free time (rare these days but it does happen), you’ll find me with my head in the pages of a book or checking out the latest kindle download on my phone. I have a preference for fiction but I’m just as happy wading through non-fiction…heck, I’d read food labels and junk mail if push came to shove.
My mother was the first to encourage my reading. Almost weekly, she’d take me to our local library and I’d return home with my arms full of books (as many as borrowing policies would allow). By the time the next visit came around, I would have devoured most of them. My favourites were the tales of ancient legends. I’m certain all this was the catalyst for my love of the written word.
Reading is essential to a writer if for nothing more than selfish reasons (no readers mean no book sales) but it’s more than that. Reading teaches us about the world, about other worlds. It teaches us so much more than TV ever could. When lost in a book, we become absorbed by the story experiencing every sight, sound and smell alongside its characters. We learn how to communicate our thoughts, project to others the images we hold in our minds, and pluck at the reader’s heartstrings though empathy towards our creations. We learn how to play with and weave our beautiful languages into works of art.
Reading inspires us to do great things and countless others have paved the way before us. Learn from their mistakes and their successes. Read their works, pull apart their sentences, but above all, love what they (and you) do.
But we can’t stop there. It is our duty as writers, not only to read widely, but to incite the same in others, especially our children. Some of the best times I’ve spent with my little boy have been when reading to him. Every single night, he picks a book and I read it to him. Granted, it’s the same book over and over and I no longer read them so much as recite them by rote, but the principle is the same. He loves the stories, joins in with the actions and, sometimes, fills in the words during my (dramatic) pauses. The look on his face is enough for me; I would read to him until I could no longer draw breath.
This escapism and joy, to me, is the essence of childhood. It teaches our children that it is okay to use their imaginations, to look at the world differently and that is never a bad thing…especially for a writer.