If you’re reading, you’re writing

Bev Dalton

Bev Dalton | March 1, 2024

If you’re reading, you’re writing


Hands up anyone who’s had a bit of writer’s block? Looking around I can see that’s pretty much all of us, right? Even you at the back, hiding behind your laptop screen, pretending you’re doing research into character types, whilst actually playing Royal Match and posting videos of your cat.

Why do we have such a hard time admitting we are stuck? We think ‘real’ writers don’t have this problem, that’s why.

But is it reasonable to imagine the writers we admire never had a day or two when they went a bit blank, or couldn’t work out an inspiring and original plot without so much as a frown?

No. This is bonkers. Everyone has days – weeks, even – when the words just don’t play ball.

I know there’s mountains of techniques available to help shift us out of these ruts. And that is great, it truly is. But what about the guilt? The sense that we are doing something wrong – something that needs fixing? That, perhaps, we are not a ‘proper’ writer, after all?

Well, here’s the thing. I was once told (by a bona fide writer of about 100 books and counting) that if you are reading, you’re writing.

What did she mean by this?

She meant reading teaches us plot, structure, character, flow, and much more besides. It immerses us in story-telling. It makes us delve into the art of word-built worlds. A great book leaves us marked by the experience and changed by the journey. And all the time we are absorbing the lessons of how to do better at our chosen craft.

Reading is a form of practice. What you read may not be relevant to your WIP, but to live for a few days in an ocean of words will have an effect. The more times you encounter a devilish plot twist, a masterfully layered character, or a paragraph of such sublime prose it makes you want to weep, the more you will be inspired to create the same complexity in your own work. And the deeper will be your understanding of how to do it.

So next time you feel over-whelmed by the task of filling that blank and accusatory page, go to your bookshelf, or a library, or even the cinema (because plot and character and tension, yah-de-yah). Give yourself permission to become awash with story-telling. Lose yourself in something that is fantastic to you. Don’t study the book, trying to find answers to specific problems – just enjoy the ride, knowing that part of you is taking everything in. Then come back to your WIP. Not guilty but renewed.

Because when you’re reading, you’re writing. Simple as.

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