Successful writers are omnivores—gluttons—when it comes to reading because they are continually fascinated by yet another way of telling a story, of new ways of using language to evoke sensory impressions, to transport us to other times and places. Reading omnivorously means reading outside the boundary of storytelling that is most similar to your own. Do you like writing mysteries a la Sue Grafton and Jonathan Kellerman? Then read Virginia Woolf and Ernest Hemingway. Do you like to write lighthearted fiction? Then read Dostoevesky and Strindberg. If you’re a poet with a penchant for composing Wordsworthian pastoral meditations via Petrarchan sonnets, then take the time to read poets with modernist sensibilities like T.S. Eliot and Anne Sexton. You will learn much from reading authors whose modes of storytelling, writing styles, and world views are very different from your own.
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION
Reading of any kind can prove to be an excellent way to re-kindle the writing flame. That’s because when we read we’re indulging ourselves in the primal pleasure that made us want to become writers in the first place: magically shaping language into stories, into other worlds that we can venture into.
1. Pick up a book or magazine and, with pen and paper within easy reach, begin reading one of its stories or articles. Your aim here is to be on the alert for whatever it is in the piece of writing that triggers an idea, however vague. As soon as it comes stop reading and jot it down.
2. Go over the notes you’ve taken for #1 above; select one of them to work into a story or essay.