As a new writer trying to build up your skills, a common question you might have is: Should I read more or write more? When starting out, what’s more important? Focusing on one or the other is something that many writers and potential writers struggle with. As writers, we want to improve our craft as much as possible.
But to do that is easier said than done. You’ve probably had someone tell you at least once that writing more will make you a better writer. You might have also heard somebody else say the same thing about reading.
But, which one is it?
Which one is more vital to becoming the best writer you can be? It’s not productive to waste time doing things that aren’t going to improve your skills. Both reading and writing take a lot of time. So it’s best to know which one will benefit you more in the end.
After all, time is money. Writers have bills to pay and jobs to do. Whether you’re a blogger, copywriter, or fiction author, that paycheck is necessary. Choosing the way we manage our time to improve our skills and make more money is extremely important.
In this article, we’ll answer in detail whether or not new writers should be focusing more on reading or writing.
Why Read More?
We’ll start by answering the question of, why read more? What’s the point of reading more if you want to become a better writer? Well, there are actually tons of relevant things you get from reading that will help you become a better writer.
Reading is a hobby that few people do today. In 2019, CNBC wrote an article stating that 24% of Americans haven’t read a book in the past year. The statistic was an effort to figure out why so many people are refusing to read these days.
Modern entertainment might have something to do with it. Nobody wants to read when they have Ipads, smartphones, and video games to keep them entertained.
However, reading is much more than entertainment, it’s about education.
Many great writers in history have been some of the most prolific readers.
- Thomas Jefferson
- Ernest Hemmingway
- Benjamin Franklin
- J.K. Rowling
- Stephen King
- William Shakespeare
Do you see where I’m going with this? These people are well known, and they’re all famous for what they wrote. That should be more than enough motivation for you to read more.
The Benefits Of Reading
The benefits of reading are many. People who read are more likely to do better in school and their jobs. A study done in 2013 revealed that reading actually makes areas of the brain work harder.
That activity building up in the brain from reading makes you smarter. Reading more can also help improve your memory and analytical skills. Science is telling us that doing more of it can develop and nourish the mind.
Furthermore, the way it affects writers is very much the same. If you want to be a good writer, then read more. Having a good memory and strong analytical skills will help you write better.
Reding will make you more capable of making arguments in a professional and organized matter. Plus, a better memory will allow you to retain more vocabulary.
You’ll sound smarter by using different words and phrases.
The truth, however, is that reading will benefit every aspect of your life. It’s not a coincidence that the most successful people on the planet love to read.
How Does Reading Improve Writing?
Reading is an essential part of what makes a good writer. A writer who doesn’t read has no sense of persuasion or style other than their own. Reading more will expose you to different types of writing and grammatical styles.
As an avid reader myself, I can tell you just how much reading has influenced my writing. Reading helps me learn something new.
Reading has helped me construct better arguments when I write. Learning from other authors who’ve had way more influence than me is also a huge benefit. By reading more books and articles from well-known writers, you can use their work as an influence.
For example, let’s say you want to be the best blog writer on the internet. I would suggest you go to Neil Patel’s blog and read all of his articles. He’ll give you a good idea of how to write a blog post.
Or, if you want to be a fiction author, go and read J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and Shakespeare. Learning from the masters will turn you into a master.
How To Improve Your Writing Through Reading
There are many ways to improve your writing through reading. Like I said before, reading more content related to what you want to write about will do the trick.
Likewise, other famous writers in the past have used reading to improve the way they write. For example, Benjamin Franklin used his reading habit to perfect his writing.
His appetite for knowledge through reading taught him how to write.
Ben Franklin would take passages from articles he would read and take notes. He would study his notes, along with the original, and leave them alone for a few days.
After that, Ben would try to replicate the writing in his own words and style. He would then edit out anything that didn’t look right. That’s how one of the founding fathers of the United States became such an influential writer.
If you want to be like Ben Franklin, it’s time to start reading more.
Start by getting books and articles that resemble the writing style you want to replicate. Furthermore, use Ben’s methods of jotting down notes and then later try writing it in your own words.
What To Read More Of
So we proved that reading is definitely beneficial for writers and anyone else looking to improve themselves. However, another popular question is, what should you be reading more?
Should you read more self-help books? Non-fiction? Or just fiction? Blogs? Whitepapers?
The truth is that the type of stuff to read depends on your personal and professional interests. For instance, if your goal is to become a copywriter, I suggest you go and read more copy.
If you start reading more difficult writing, it’ll throw you off. Your copywriting skills will be negatively affected. That’s because copywriting is supposed to be a simple form of writing.
If you read more books that use complex vocabulary, it won’t do you any good since copywriters avoid those kinds of words.
Yet, if you want to start writing non-fiction books, it’ll probably be better to read more of those. It really just depends on what kind of writer you want to be.
How Much Time Should Be Spent Reading?
The amount of time to spend reading depends on a few things.
- How Much Time Are You Willing To Spare?
- Are You Willing To Make Time?
- How Fast Do You Read?
- Speed Versus Absorbing The Material
The first thing to consider is how much time do you have available? If you work three jobs and have children, I think it’s safe to say that your time is limited.
But that’s okay; it’s possible to get around that. That brings me to my second point. Which is, are you willing to make time? By that, I mean, are you prepared to wake up early to read for 10-20 minutes?
Or can you spare some time at night to read for about a half-hour? 30 minutes a day is enough if you can do it consistently. Also, think about how fast it takes you to read. If you’re a fast reader, then you can read more in less time.
However, with that comes my last point, which is speed versus absorbing the material. The most important part is to take in what you read. Skimming the book does not count as reading.
Make sure to pay attention when reading something. Take notes, and always try to ponder what the author is trying to say. Likewise, don’t be afraid to go back and reread a book or an article either.
How To Read More
According to Policygenius, Americans spend about 84% of their time a year doing their daily grind. That means the rest of the 16% of your time is when to fit in reading.
I manage my time by looking at which of my hobbies benefit me and which ones don’t. If I feel like a hobby is wasting my time, I’ll drop it to do something more productive.
Recently I decided to stop playing video games in an attempt to read more. I found that by not playing games, I had way more time to read.
However, this isn’t just about video games. It’s about any hobby that can interfere with you and your books. Reading does take time, and to do it means sacrificing other hobbies.
Start by making a list of the hobbies or activities that you feel are wasting time. Then either cut them out or reduce them to make time to read.
The Read More Write More Debate
We’ve already discussed the benefits that reading has for writers. Yet, many new writers are confused about why it’s just as important if not more important, than writing.
If you think about it, this makes sense. Why not focusing on nothing else but writing?
Well, writing more is obviously a crucial part of becoming a good writer. However, don’t underestimate the importance of reading either. The hard part is that doing both of these at once takes up a lot of time. I see many new writers abandon reading only to write.
That’s wrong, and there needs to be a balance between the two.
How Writing More Improves Writing Skills
Consistent writing is definitely going to make you a better writer over the long term. However, it depends on what type of writing you do.
Most people today are writing on their laptops and phones on the internet. The reason why this can be bad is that it doesn’t challenge you enough.
There’s not a lot of thought that goes into speed writing on your laptop or phone. Like, how people send messages to their friends on Facebook or email. You don’t learn anything by doing that.
Yet, a better way is to start writing by hand.
The Wall Street Journal cited a study from 2010 that concluded how writing by hand actually encourages brain activity and makes you smarter. That’s very similar to the other research we talked about earlier.
Writing by hand makes you think. It encourages you to remember things, like spelling, vocabulary, grammar, and syntax, without relying on software.
It’s all about finding a balance between the two. Type on your laptop when blogging or doing any freelance work. Then, write by hand when journaling and taking notes.
Why Writers Need a Journal
In an era before spell check and Grammarly, people use to edit by hand. Think about how much work that use to take. Entire books were written by hand before the invention of the printing press.
Back then, writers were like artists. They still are today, but too many rely on things like spellcheck and editing software.
One way to get around this is by keeping a journal. Writing in a journal every day will force you to write by hand and correct any spelling or grammar mistakes through memory.
In one of my older blog posts, I talked about how blogging is like journaling. Blogging is very similar to journaling, but a blog requires you to write on a keyboard. To take your writing to the next level, start writing in a physical journal every day.
The good news is that you can write anything in a personal journal, unlike with a blog. Buy a nice journal notebook and bring it wherever you go. Write about whatever’s on your mind. That strategy is how the famous Anne Frank improved her writing skills.
When she and her family were hiding from the Nazis, Anne wrote in her journal almost every day. Eventually, her writing skills improved a lot, and it would lead to the successful publication of her diary years later.
Learn Content Writing
If you want to make money relatively quickly as a writer, the best thing to do is to become a content writer. Content writers write content like blog posts for websites. Blog posts help businesses market themselves and bring in customers through SEO.
You can start a blog at any time and begin building experience now. Writing a blog will give you the skills and experiences necessary to do this kind of work.
Content writing is also a great way to learn how to write copy.
Even though content writing isn’t copywriting, the two share many similarities. Content writers need to write in a very simple and easy to understand way. Copywriting is similar, but the end goal is a little different.
Copywriters usually write copy to sell a specific product or service. Content writers can write content for almost anything. Content writers are also supposed to inform the reader and not just be a sales pitch.
Either way, you’ll learn how to write for an audience on the internet, and make money in the process.
You might think that this would be obvious, but so many writers don’t do it. Writing every day is essential to becoming a better writer. If you neglect writing for a long period of time, your skills will start to decline.
Eventually, you will get rusty.
When you get rusty at something, it makes it harder to transition back. Professional basketball players train for hours every day. They do that to stay sharp when they’re playing in the courts.
You have to do the same as a writer. Writing every day will help you:
- Write Faster
- If you can bust out a 2-3,000 word article in 1-3 hours, then you’ve learned how to write fast. It’s all about getting your mind used to it. If you can do that, writing will be a lot easier.
- Write Better
- Of course, writing every day will make you write better. By writing daily, you’ll start making fewer grammatical and spelling mistakes. Eventually, you’ll learn how to use less past tense and simpler language for your readers.
- Edit Better
- As a new writer, the chances are that you can’t afford an editor just yet. So the best thing to do is to edit your own work.
- Think Of Better Topics
- For me, the more I write, the more ideas flow through my head. Writing every day will help you think of new ideas to write about. I don’t know why this happens; it just does. It probably has something to do with keeping your mind focused and working.
- Build Confidence
- Writing every day is actually more of a psychological trick. By writing seven days a week, you will become a more confident writer. Building up that confidence is essential to a writer’s success.
Conclusion: Should You Read More or Write More?
Considering everything we’ve discussed in this article, I think it’s safe to say that you should be doing both. If you want to be a great writer, you must read more and write more consistently.
However, make sure you read material related to the type of writer you want to be. So, to become a content writer, read more blogs.
If your goal is to become a fiction writer, read fiction. And remember to manage your time to get enough reading done. If your schedule is tight, try to set 30 minutes to read a day. If other hobbies are getting in the way of that, consider cutting them out.
Similarly, to become a great writer, it’s also a good idea to write in a journal. Science proves that writing by hand can help you improve. Furthermore, learn something like content writing to make some money while you pursue other interests.
Lastly, remember to write every day. Set a time each day to write. The same can be done for reading, although it doesn’t have to be every day. Just remember to be consistent, and eventually, you will become a great writer.