This article previously appeared on A Writer’s Path.
The moment you think you know everything about writing, that’s the moment your writing plateaus.
Last week I talked about why writers should read voraciously. But that was a post focused on fiction. You know, reading in the genre you write. For instance, if you write fantasy, you ought to be familiar with fantasy and read it near daily.
But writers are, first and foremost, readers, and while it’s useful to read any fiction we can get our hands on . . .
Shouldn’t writers also read about writing?
Surprisingly, there are some people who don’t think writers should read about writing. (Or maybe they just find it boring.)
I mean, isn’t it kind of like reading about work or talking shop? Well . . . yeah. But there’s a reason we’re assigned reading in school, and there’s a reason that people “talk shop”: it’s how we’re taught new skills, understand what we’re doing wrong, how others do it right (or wrong), and why we aren’t good enough–yet.
Many of us writers never went to school for writing. Sure, we may have written the required essays in high school English class, or wrote a required short story in elementary school, all that jazz. But most writers these days don’t take the educational route and go to college and get a creative writing degree or an MFA in literature. Instead, today’s authors may study “literature” naturally through their independent reading and learn quite a bit. But at some point in your writing journey, you need a teacher. And that’s what books on writing do.
“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” ― Ernest Hemingway, The Wild Years
1. You learn new skills.
Most obviously, the first reason you should read about writing is to learn something new. Even if you’ve been writing for twenty years, you may not have learned much about structure. Or you may not have learned exactly when to use a semi-colon, or you may not have learned how to write a short story.
All those things can strengthen whatever writing you do. Don’t assume you know it all–you never will.
“A person who won’t read has no advantage over one can’t read.” ― Mark Twain
Language is fluid, ever-changing. It’s something that we can always continue to learn, and always continue to improve.
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