Learning to read was hard. But probably from second grade through high school I was a voracious reader. From “Little House on the Prairie” to “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “A Wrinkle In Time,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “Ender’s Game”…my imagination was challenged and stretched. I also read biographies and autobiographies. Then college hit. I don’t know if it was the busier schedule, or all the academic reading, or the fact that we weren’t assigned novels to read in class, but my “out of school” reading started to wane. It must have tapered off slowly because (here’s the scary part), I hardly noticed.
To be fair, I will add that my interests did switch. Even at the end of high school I was leaning toward non-fiction over fiction. My college years seemed to solidify that. I’ll also add that some of my high school required reading made me think that there wasn’t much good fiction out there. But I kept telling people I was a big reader.
And I suppose I did keep reading large amounts of non-fiction. But for at least 4-5 years there I hardly read any fiction at all! And suddenly I woke up one day and decided to read more. I still have a busy schedule, and plenty of excuses. But I make time for it. In fact, for about a year and a half now I have had a steady diet of reading. And guess what?
I can directly see it impacting my writing. It makes me wonder how I could last so long without reading! I kept writing through those novel-drought years. But even I saw some of the symptoms of rusty, stale prose and flimsy character development. Now, I must admit that my writing has also directly improved in proportion to my life experiences. But I have to credit my renewed passion for reading as well.
You will often hear people give advice to new writers: read widely. I wholeheartedly agree! I learn something new from every new author and every new book. They give me perspectives, new voice, inspiration, and sometimes show me what not to do. Reading other authors is one of my best writing resources. So if you don’t have a steady reading plan: make one. I mean it. It is too easy to keep saying you’ll read that book. Set goals for yourself! I recommend goodreads.com. They help keep me motivated to meet my reading goals and it is fun to look back on the year and see what you’ve read!