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Reading is Fundamental if You Want to Write

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King provides quite a bit of food for thought about the subject of writing, reading and words in general. I was reminded just this morning how influential King has been in my life, and in my writing, by a colleague on Facebook who wanted to know what everyone was reading.

It seems I’ve always been a reader of some sort, even from an early age. I remember riding my bike to the library (back when parents let their kids ride bikes everywhere) and checking out all kinds of books. I loved Beverly Cleary and the Harriet the Spy books, but most of all, I got to escape to a world that was something very different from my own.

I think reading has made me a better writer. Stephen King has quite a few quotes on this topic alone, but I think that as a writer, you will want to read other writers’ styles in order to improve your own style.

Just last night, I was in a quandary. I am about 30% (yes, on a Kindle – go ahead and berate me if you want) through Michael Chabon’s new book, “Telegraph Hill” about two interrelated families who live in Berkeley. I am somewhat disappointed by this book; after all, I LOVED his book, “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.” This one, I want to put this one down and begin reading something else – it’s dull and I’m not sure it’s great writing …

… which made me want to talk about authors who encouraged me to write. I know – this is a somewhat lopsided stream of consciousness, but – hey – it’s MY stream! Here are my 3 favorite authors:

  • All-time Fav: Larry McMurtry, hands down. Those who have been at my house have seen my complete collection. I even collect master’s and doctoral essays students have written on him, as well as magazine articles, DVDs of his books made into movies, and more. Ok, so it borders on obsessive; sue me.
  • Runner Up: John Irving. Anyone who wants to write or get better at writing should read him.
  • Third Place: Pat Conroy. Yes, his books are rambling and he definitely needs an editor, but I love Southern fiction.
  • Honorable Mention: Stephen King. Mostly, the early stuff up to IT.

So, whenever I write – whether it’s a business piece for a client or something just for me – I think of these 3 great writers (and all the others I like – too numerous to list here) and like to think they inspire me to improve my writing.

Bottom line: Read if you want to Write.

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