Writing advice that works. Read.
Starting in your writing journey? here is another tip that has helped me so far, and will hopefully help you.
Reading. Advice shared by many others, and for a good reason. It is a fantastic way to learn and improve your writing, by learning from others.
You want to improve, your writing, one of the first steps is to read more.
“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”
A lesson carried over from University
I will be honest with you all, I spent a little too much time at University drinking rather than reading. I know not helping the whole Irish stereotype!
One key thing I did learn, which I believe should be applied to reading, was a lesson learned from a few friends who were studying Film and Media. Not only did they watch a lot of films, but it was also how they watched them.
They were doing more than just watching the film, they were analysing and studying it, trying to understand, I like this film but why?
I found the same thing happening with friends who were studying music at the time. They had always joked around saying, thanks to university they will never be able to listen to music in the same way again. They were not just listening to music, they were studying it.
Applying this approach to your reading
Reading is great for learning, but just reading a handful of books, for the most part, will not magically make you a better writer. You need to spend time analysing and studying what you have read.
Say you come across an insightful or interesting sentence, try and ask yourself what makes this sentence so great? How is the writer explaining it compared to others?
This relates to a great approach I ‘borrowed’ from a writer you may have heard of, Ryan Holiday. Which he refers to as the Notecard system or a commonplace book. What I do, is when reading a book, highlight phrases or sentences that stand out to me. A few weeks after finishing the book I return to those highlighted sections, grab a pen and a block of cards, then write down why it stood out to me.
I also found it helpful as an exercise, to re-write some of those highlighted sections. word for word. Then try again but writing it in my own words.
Using this technique, at least so far, has helped me to try and pick up and adapt other techniques used by successful writers.
Learning from what you have read
Another great way to soak in all that great knowledge from the next book you read is by taking action. Say you read about a new writing technique or learn about structuring headings.
The best way to absorb and learn from what you have just read is to act. Take what you have just learned and apply it to your writing or in other areas of your life.
This is especially helpful, if like me, you have the memory of a goldfish. I honestly can not even remember what I had for dinner last night. Anyway onto the next point!
To not read is selfish
There is a vast amount of knowledge and lessons waiting to be learned from books, just waiting for you. It is not only selfish but disrespectful not to read. Okay maybe that was a little over the top, but even a few hundred years ago, reading in society was a privilege.
Now reading is more accessible and affordable than ever. You owe it to yourself to read more.
“Look, you either get this or you don’t. Reading is something you know is important and want to do more of. Or you’re someone who just doesn’t read. If you’re the latter, you’re on your own (you’re also probably not that smart).”
It is never too late to start learning more
I will let you all in on a little secret, when I was younger I didn’t read much, I would go as far as to say I would have been surprised if I ever read more than one book a year.
I remember vaguely when I was younger thinking in secondary school and having to write up book reviews. My first instinct? Pick up the Lord of the Rings books. Not to read. Oh no, I had seen the films and thought, it would save me the time reading.
Although I look back and this is one regret of my life, not reading more from a younger age. I believe it is never too late, to pick up a book and start learning.
A few quotes to inspire you before you go
“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of.”
“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.”
“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
Resources and Inspiration
- Ryan Holiday
- Stephen King
- Ryan Holiday’s 3-Step System for Reading Like a Pro