I work for a library. It should thus come as no surprise that I condone reading books. Read books. Read library books. Science1 has proven that it's good for your brain.
I know, I know. It's hard to find the time to read. Books are so long! There are so many words! How are you to read all of those words when life keeps going on around you?
|Have you SEEN how many words are in these things?|
Who has time for that? I'll just watch all 40 hours of the TV show.
To save time, you know.
What you may not know is that books can fit into your schedule as snugly as they fit in your bookshelf. There are secret intervals scattered throughout your day during which you could replace "doing nothing" with "reading a book." For example, you might read a book while on the toilet. You might read a book while in the bath. You can read a book while waiting for water to boil. You can read a book while waiting for your cake to bake. You can read a book during commercial breaks.
Et cetera, et cetera.
You can do all of this and more through the art of multitasking. Now, there are times when multitasking is a bad thing. Writing is often one of those times. Reading, however, is not. It turns out that there are a lot of things you do throughout the day that are basically mindless. Your body goes through the motions while your brain floats far away, imagining a world where subservient machines wash your dishes for you.
|WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE ALREADY HAVE THOSE?|
These times are perfect for reading. Obviously more mobile activities might pose a problem, but sedentary moments are ideal for getting your read on.
|Walking while reading is an art. |
Once mastered, you may be able to perform extraordinary feats
with a dreamy far off look
and your nose stuck in a book.
But Shayla, you may be exclaiming, further ignoring the futility of talking to your computer monitor (who I doubt is named Shayla), what does reading have to do with writing?
Are you really asking that? Like, for real? You know what books are made of, right?
I mean, yes, they're made of paper, but that's not the answer I was going for. Books, you see, are made up of paragraphs, which are made up of sentences, which are made up of two primary things: words and grammar.
When you read a book, you learn not only what words are, but how words are used. You learn how to build sentences, how to use your words in a way that both conveys meaning and pleases the brain. You may even learn some new words!
With careful observation, books can improve your grammar as well. Track the wild comma as it stalks throughout your books. Quake before the semi-colon;
he is the most misunderstood of grammatical beasts. Learn that ellipses are best used sparingly, and certainly not as end marks for every single piece of
dialogue . . . Same thing for exclamation points! Never use multiple exclamation points!! Ever!!! Not even to put four exclamation points worth of emphasis on your sentence!!!!
Reading books also provides a healthy understanding of when to break the rules of grammar and word-usage over your knee. Rules are, as they cliché, made to be broken. Feel free to use the odd adverb. Don't shy away from the occasional sentence fragment. If it makes your writing flow better, do it.
|You've got to feel the flow.|
As a last point, I feel I have to mention that you don't need to limit your reading to books in the genre(s) you plan on writing. You can learn something from all kinds of writing, even bad writing. Learning what doesn't work can be just as useful as learning what does. For example, a bad book might teach you how not to craft awful similes.
|This "simile" brought to you by an incredibly popular, best-selling YA novel.|
Maybe this doesn't need to be said. After all, if you want to write, you probably like to read. However, if you're anything like me, you may have fallen out of the habit for one reason or another. This is my attempt to reach out to those who've had this problem and let them know that no matter how busy your life is, you can still find time to read. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day. You'd be surprised how quickly the page count adds up.1 "Science," in this case, being used to mean "mildly informed guessing based mostly on past experiences."