“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Stephen King’s writing advice goes straight to the point: Writers should read more. It’s advice you see repeated everywhere, in almost every workshop and author interview. But what are those tools exactly? What is it that reading teaches you that you can’t learn just from classes, or from your own writing?
Reading teaches you what good language sounds like
Annie Dillard has a wonderful anecdote about a great painter she once met: “I asked him how he came to be a painter. He said, ‘I liked the smell of the paint.‘”
As a writer, words are your paint. Boiled down to its simplest form, writing is the act of moving words around on paper until you like the way they sound, and if you don’t love the visceral experience of working with words, you have no business being a writer.
Just as the musician trains her ear by listening to music, the writer trains her ear and develops her voice by reading. The more the writer reads, the better she knows her tools. At the very least, reading helps you sharpen your ear for language, showing you how to eliminate awkward constructions, needless verbiage, and lifeless clichés. Continue reading