The One Thing You Need to Do to Be a Good Writer

So you want to be a writer? I think you should! No one else in the world can tell a story, lend advice, provide expertise, or state an opinion like you. But if you really want to get at it, you need to do one important thing. And a lot of it.

Photo Credit: kattra via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: kattra via Compfight cc

READ!

I have always enjoyed reading. Before I had a Kindle, a stack of books sat next to my bed at all times. I often bounced from book to book, each on different subjects. Now that I read almost exclusively on a Kindle, I read much the same way, except the stack of half-read and to-read books is kept neatly in digital form.

In the past I read mainly for information and entertainment. Now that I am a writer, I find that I also read to learn how to write.

I read all kinds of literature.

I read anything that touches my passions like missional topics, adoption and foster care, and financial investing. I also read things that entertain me like sports journalism, travel, and gardening.

I also enjoy keeping up with current events and politics. Then like most of us, I easily get lost in the narrative of a good fiction writer.

I have begun to notice what kind of literature or writer grabs my attention and pulls me into the story no matter the subject. I pay attention to grammar, word structure and verb tenses.

I read to learn how to communicate with clarity, passion, and a distinct voice.

When I read a new writer I look to see if I can glean a new style or learn a new way of using grammar. I learn new vocabulary when I venture into new topics and new authors.

When I began writing, I found that I read less. “I need to concentrate on my writing”, I thought. I subconsciously thought I was wasting time by reading instead of writing.

That pendulum has swung back to the other extreme now. I even look for more time to read, because I know it makes me a better writer, even when I am not consciously focused on learning how to write.

Want to know how you can be a reader to become a better writer?

  • Pay attention to what other people are reading. When I hear someone mention a book, I almost always pull out my phone and open Evernote and write it down to check out later.
  • Take advantage of Free and Discounted Ebooks. Websites offer free ebooks all the time (like mine!) just for subscribing to their site. I also follow different twitter accounts that promote free or deeply discounted ebooks available for a short time like this one—@gospelebooks.
  • Set aside time daily to read. Don’t think you have time? Begin by turning off the TV and reading instead (and I don’t mean reading posts on social media!). Don’t like to read? Start small. Read just one chapter a day or one article a day.

Want some more inspiration to read more to become a better writer? Read this blog by Jeff Goins. (I really hope he isn’t talking about my blog in the first paragraph. But then again if he is, he visited my site at least once, no?)

Want to know what I am reading at the moment or just read? Begin a dialogue in the comment section about what you are reading and I will share my list.

I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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One thought on “The One Thing You Need to Do to Be a Good Writer

  1. I completely agree with you. I try to read a little bit every day. Some books take longer than others, but whether for enjoyment or information that leads to knowledge on a subject I try my hardest to plow through. I didn’t like writing in undergrad, however, in Seminary, with all the subject books and theology books read,, I found I thoroughly enjoyed the research and writing that was required. In fact, my knowledge on a subject greatly increased if I was writing about it as I devoured everything on that subject. Reading is enjoyable, an escape, an opportunity to learn, a chance to visit other places and enjoy the actions described in fiction/history. The more reading done, the better the writing and the better the opportunity to apply knowledge and become a leader. Children are often taught that readers are leaders and I believe it to be true. I’m currently stacked up with several books to read, many of them classics I never read. I always wanted to, but never did read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. I’m currently working through it and accompanying commentaries. The next book on the list is one that a good friend of mine wrote and I’m looking forward to reading it and his family’s journey on an important path in their life. I just finished David Crockett: The Man and The Legend. A very challenging book for me. Extremely detailed biographical history, almost to the point of tedium, at least for me. Prior to that I read Decision Points by G.W. Bush. I found it quite enlightening as to why he did the things he did. It wasn’t a self promoting book. He pointed out his flaws, his embarrassments, his bad habits and other negatives. He also gave detailed reasoning for why he made the presidential decisions he did. Whether one is a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, I recommend it just to see his insight. I thoroughly agree with you that reading is a necessity and we should all do more of it. Thanks for the great post!