Writers Have to Read

Woman reading a book.I believe writers have to read. I don’t have scientific data to prove the “why” of the claim; I only know that my writing improves the more I immerse myself in the writing of others. Such writing may be easy to read, and some of it may be difficult. Almost all of it makes me uncomfortable in some way. It challenges me to think through a subject, to explore how ideas in the work interact with my own, or to study how the writing itself works. As I do so, my own work grows. It initially takes on characteristics of what I’m reading, then my writing absorbs what I’ve learned and experienced. The form becomes something that is mine, something that is distinctively “Erin.”

Despite my belief in the importance of reading and my love of it, my reading habits have been lackluster as of late. I could attempt to justify the lack, but the justifications would be excuses. I am no more busy than anyone else who is trying to start or grow a business. I am no more tired. I am, however, lazy. I have not made reading the priority it should be.

I plan to change that fact this year. I will read at least twenty books in 2013. I proclaim the fact on this blog so that I can be held accountable. I also will instill other measures, namely Goodreads. I haven’t used the site much, but I think it could help me to stay on track with my goal. I may even go a step further and share the books I’m reading on the Write Right blog. That idea is under consideration; I don’t use the blog for book reviews and am not sure if that’s an avenue I should pursue. I will contemplate the idea, but I can’t guarantee that it will occur.

In any case, I have made my commitment. I will read at least twenty new books this year. I think it’s a reasonable goal. I also think it will help me to recall my love of reading and to mature as a writer.

What about you? Do you have a reading goal for 2013?

Photo: Wouter de Bruijn (CC BY NC SA 2.0)


  1. My goals are to write more, finish my book and read as many as possible. I haven’t counted how many I read last year, but I think 20 is doable for me.
    Reading is critical for writers.

    • Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes It is critical! I always feel better after emerging from a book.
      Good luck with the book you’re writing. Is it fiction? (Should I know the answer to this question?)

  2. dustyjournal says:

    Good goal, Erin! I wish you luck! 
    Last year, I was in the same boat. My reading habits were awful, and I wanted to expand my horizons as a poet. Goodreads helped me achieve my reading goal in 2012. Their reading challenge widget was the impetus that pushed me to continually think about reading, and put books ahead of random internet browsing. 
    This year, I have another issue to work out: how to read more books on my giant to-read list, rather than just skimming any old thriller or true crime or poet that’s the flavor of the week. My goal is to read more classic novels, and award-winning poets. To see what makes them tick.
    Goodreads, I hope, will keep me on track for this goal too. 😀 If you’re looking for more goodreads friends, I’d love to add you!

    • dustyjournal Let’s be friends on Goodreads! I miss chatting with you. Maybe we can stay in touch better via our reading habits.
      I know I’ll have some poetry and poetics on my to-read and have-read list. You’re welcome to browse.

      • dustyjournal says:

        Erin F. I found ya on Goodreads! I’ve sent you along a request. It’s a great way to keep in touch, to see what you’re reading, and what you’re up to! 😀

    • dustyjournal Don’t make as much use of Goodreads as I should! I’ve tried consolidating various books lists, from #fb and #in, into Goodreads with limited success. I keep remembering books I forgot I read! Or I keep missing books from other lists. Also problematic when I keep reading so much. 😉

    • dustyjournal When I get home I’m going to look for all of you on Goodreads…providing the guy actually gets my computer fixed. (long story and sad…I digress).
      Erin…this post is awesome!

  3. I had a goal for 2012 which I failed to keep up with 🙁 And now I have another challenge this year too. I am planning to read at least 25 books this year. Let’s hope! 
    Do academic books count? 😉

    • Hajra  Academic books certainly count! Some of my pleasure reading is more academia oriented. That might be why I struggle to read as often as I should…I have to think when I read those works. 
      Are you using Goodreads? We can help each other stay on track!

    • Hajra I would count academic books and if they are really long, maybe I’d count them twice. If they were really boring, I might count them thrice.  (Ha! I used “thrice” in a sentence.)

      • ExtremelyAvg They are really, really long. But very interesting. That is the charm of studying psychology (at least for me), I don’t get so bored. Or maybe I am a nerd. 🙂

        • Hajra  ExtremelyAvg I think everyone’s a nerd in his or her own way. Hello, poetics. Or cultural studies. Or sociology and literature. Or…

      • ExtremelyAvg Hajra  “Thrice” is a great word. It probably feels neglected. It’s good that you used the word in a sentence.

  4. 20 books in 2013 is a great goal. I downloaded and read twelve books in 2012 (one was an ebook type – only 60 pages – do these count?) maybe i’ll dig up my goodreads password…

    • itsjessicann E-books count. If you remember your password, we can connect on Goodreads. We almost could start a book club with the people who have commented here.

  5. I had to go check Goodreads as I haven’t been on it much either. I have a lot of updating to do!
    Completely agree reading is a necessity for writers, and I’d say that reading good literature as well as crap literature, and learning to tell the difference, is also a necessity.

    • econwriter5 Learning to tell the difference is a necessity. I think that’s part of the reason I’ve become such a picky reader. I used to read everything and anything when I was a kid. My palate changed as I got older.

      • Erin F. For awhile i read everything, too. I still read most things, but now I tend to go in cycles. Fiction. Nonfiction. Self help. Biography. Autobiography. Business. Technology. Science. Psychology. Music. Sometimes I pick a book up on a whim and it turns out to be surprisingly too. Sometimes it’s absolute crap. And there are some writers I just don’t read anymore as all the books sound the same.
        A really nice thing about Kindle is being able to download a sample. If I’m not interested by the time I finish the sample, I don’t bother. Digital equivalent to reading random parts of a book before purchase.

        • econwriter5 I have my younger brother doing reconnaissance on Kindles for me. 🙂 I think having one would help me to read more than I currently do.
          My reading tastes vary, but I’m drawn to poetry and poetics. What can I say? I’m a poet who’s obsessed with process.
          Do you use Goodreads? We can follow each other there.

        • Erin F. Yep. goodreads.com/econwriter5

  6. Totally spot on.  I couldn’t agree more. I also watch a lot of movies, hate TV, need the long form.  Great post.

    • geoffliving Thanks, Geoff! I actually don’t have a television. It’s amazing how much more you can get done without that distraction. 🙂 How’s the knee?

  7. Hi Erin,
    Since I do a book review every month technically I need to read at least 12 books. Last year I made it through 9 and then used 1 coffee table book and a cue card booklet (QuoteYak) as the last 2 months. I didn’t post in December so it really only makes 11 but getting through 11 books is tough for me.
    I am impressed that you will double that. That’s great! 
    If you want to check out my reviews you can link to them from the header (Read This Stuff!) on my blog. Part way through the year I started to do video which has been fun.
    Cheers and good lick.

    • rdopping Funny you should say that – some people are challenging me to read 100 books in 2013. It was a doable feat in my younger years when I didn’t have a job, a business, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum. I’m wondering if a Kindle would make the feat easier.
      I’ve read and/or listened to some of your reviews. Fun stuff.

      • Erin F. rdopping 100 would be hard. I could imagine 52 and I know my father easily reads that many per year and probably has for the last 60 years. Reading is such fun and it is more fun when sharing with other readers. I really need to do more with Goodreads, too.

        • ExtremelyAvg rdopping It wouldn’t have been hard when I was a kid. I basically ate books for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. 🙂
          Are we connected on Goodreads?

  8. Erin,
        I love the idea. I, too, have been reading less than I should or want to, so I think I’ll read 20 books this year also.  I started Oscar Wilde’s “A Portrait of Dorian Gray” two days ago. I’m enjoying it. I’ll let you know when I’m done with book one.

    • ExtremelyAvg There we go! The post did its job. Other people are joining the mission.
      I started a collection of short stories on Friday. Some aren’t to my liking, but some of them are excellent. I’ll write a short review on Goodreads when I finish the collection.