As someone who founded a book club called the Egalitarian Book Club, I would never dissuade anyone from reading a bit of anything and everything by a diverse array of authors. However, if you’re a writer, you might want to be a bit more decisive about what you read on a regular basis… at least eighty to ninety percent of the time.
Here’s a short list of what you should read if you’re a writer.
Genre-Specific Books and Articles Similar to What You’re Writing
If you don’t want to run into writer’s block, and you want to stay motivated to work on what you’re currently writing long-term, read as many books and articles related to what you’re writing as you can.
If you’re writing a novel, read other novels of the same genre, and articles about those novels and their authors. See how others are doing it, what they’re including and not including in their work, and their methods and practices for writing. Doing this will give you a consistent flow of ideas for what to include, or not include, in your own work. And it will keep you engaged in your own writing project, even when you’re reading other things.
Reading genre-specific books and articles similar to what you’re writing is especially important when you’re writing nonfiction— it’s just usually called “research.”
Things You Find Interesting or Fulfilling
If you’re in between writing projects, read something that captivates you or fulfills you in some way, even if you don’t think it’s related to anything you’ll write. Typically, however, reading things you find interesting or fulfilling will give you ideas for what to write next. But not always. And that’s okay. For instance, I am typically drawn to heavy literary fiction that forces me to slow down and think– which is precisely why I make it a point to read a romantic comedy every now and then. Reading romantic comedies reminds me that it’s okay and necessary to read and write about hope and love, with a bit of humorous predictability, sometimes.
And don’t force yourself to read things you don’t want to read simply because they’re popular or part of the so-called literary canon, especially if it’s related to something you’re writing. This is a surefire way to experience writer’s block, and potentially get into a reading slump. Sure, not everything you will read will speak to you immediately, so consider coming back to things you think you’ll like when you’re in a different mood or life stage. But don’t force yourself to read something you are sincerely not enjoying and probably never will.
Uplifting and Useful Writing Advice
Only read writing advice that is useful to you as a writer and that —this is incredibly important—builds you up and encourages you to keep writing. If you only read writing advice that tells you how terrible and hard writing is, and how much you’re going to have to torture yourself to be successful, then you won’t want to write for long.
Essentially, be careful about what you read because it will invade your inner monologue and psyche eventually. If you only read about terrible things and how hard or miserable it is to do something you want to do, like writing, you will internalize what you’re reading and will start disliking your writing time. Or you’ll start questioning your own abilities as a writer, especially if they’re still evolving.
Be sure to read things that tell you what you can do, and how you can do it. Avoid reading too many things that are negative and deter you from writing.
Other Writers’ Work You Want to Support
Read writing by writers you want to support. Writers need to know that someone somewhere out there is reading what they’re writing. And that it matters. So, if you find a writer you want to follow and support, read their work and tell them that you’re supporting them and their writing. Don’t offer unsolicited feedback. But do keep reading things by writers who you want to keep writing. The more engaged readers they have, the more likely they are to continue writing.
What would you add to this list? What do you think writers should be reading?
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