One of the most common pieces of advice given to aspiring writers is to read a lot regularly and rightfully so: reading is like food to a writer's brain, and it is a simple fact that someone who does not read cannot hope to become a writer.
Almost every book about writing I have ever read actively advocates for reading daily. But recently I read Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande, which changed my perspective. At one point in the book, Brande talks about how reading can sometimes be harmful to writers. Preposterous advice, right? But stick around a little longer, and I will convince you that as a writer, reading is of utmost importance, but reading every day is not.
Here is a short experiment that you should try out: start reading a book and simultaneously sit down every day to write after you have finished reading. Now go back to what you had written and compare it with the book you finished reading. You are bound to find a lot of similarities in ideas, words, and writing style between your writing and the writer of the book you were reading. The ideas and the words that you end up writing are not your own, which means that your writing has been influenced.
I believe there is a difference between being inspired and being influenced. When you are inspired by someone's writing that is going to light a creative spark in you that will help you come up with new ideas. And contrasting to that, when your writing starts getting influenced, it loses its originality in an attempt to re-create popular trends and the writing style of successful authors.
Whenever you are reading, your creative muscle ends up taking a backseat as the brain has a tendency to subconsciously pick up the ideas and writing styles of other writers and duplicate that. Now it is no wonder that so many writers struggle to find their original writing voice. And this is why it is essential to take breaks from reading to break free from the influence of other writers and explore writing all by yourself. Then, you can actually discover more about the ideas you are passionate about, identify your writing voice, and what works for you.
Another difficulty aspiring writers face are the seeds of doubt that corrode their minds when they are unable to stop comparing successful authors' published works with their rough first drafts which often results in them abandoning their work. In such times, it becomes vital for the writers to take a step back from reading other people's work and focus their time and energy on their own writing.
It is also very common for writers to ignore writing by overindulging in reading. I am guilty of it myself. When I sit down to write, I often find myself reaching out to pick up a new novel rather than picking up a pen and paper. Because the truth of the matter is that reading is easy while writing is not. Reading various books while daydreaming about writing something similar is way more fun and exciting than actually doing the hard work of writing.
❝ The fact is you can read hundreds of books, and they can fill your head with wonderful ideas and teach you a lot about writing, but you cannot become a writer simply by reading if you do not practice the craft of writing. ❞
And in the end, reading every day is not important but writing on a regular basis is. Make sure to read a lot but take a break every once in a while. And when you are on a reading break, make sure to use that time wisely to write a lot and work to improve your writing. As writers, the stories we tell and what we write must be true to the core of our being and not just an influence of someone else's work.
is a young writer from India who is currently pursuing Mass Media. Apart from reading and writing, she spends most of her time daydreaming and listening to music. You can find her on Instagram at @aastha.1703.