I am a firm believer that more you read, the better your writing will be. One reason is that if you read good writing, it will somehow be “absorbed” into your psyche, and your inner voice will be accustomed to the rhythms and cadence of good writing, and the proper use of grammar and punctuation. Of course, by reading, I mean reading good writing…the classics, or even respected authors today, both in print and on the Web. It’s a matter of value in, value out, and garbage in, garbage out. It won’t do you any good to read many of the blogs on the net, where ideas are primary and writing is secondary. Oh, read for ideas, by all means, but don’t use these as guides for your own writing.
In that vein, I recommend reading for another reason: to broaden your horizons, which is vital for a writer. Read about people and places you have never experienced first-hand. This is valuable, not because you’ll likely write about those new people and places, but because they will now inhabit your stable of characters and locales, from which you can draw as needed when you write. I’ve just edited a book about memoir writing of Muslim women of the diaspora. Likely, I might never have encountered this subject on my own; I read voraciously, but this wouldn’t have been high on my list. But, as a result of editing the book, I opened my horizons and read on some of the subjects mentioned in the book. As a consequence, my stable of characters has new dwellers.
And then, there are the bizarre facts that you will learn, facts that can later be used to enhance your storyline, or your characters’ backgrounds. Take this, for instance: cockroaches and science (watch the video at the bottom; fascinating). The subject matter initially repelled me, but I overcame my repulsion and read the article. I’m glad I did! What wonderful ideas now come to mind, for plot lines and interesting ideas for character background.
Read. You have no excuse not to. You may be overworked, but at some point, you must relax. Read. You may live out in the boonies, but if you’re reading this, you have Internet. Read. Prowl among the shelves in libraries and bookstores, pulling out books on topics you might never before have broached. Read. Broaden your horizons, and enrich your writing.