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  • Karen

Do You Have to Enjoy Reading to Excel at Writing?

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

My husband came home from work the other night with an interesting topic for discussion. One of the kids he trains plays tennis for her high school team. So, he asked her if she's watching Wimbledon. Her answer: "I really don't like watching tennis."

Hmmm....If that response strikes you as odd, you're in good company. It left my husband and me, along with our 11-year-old, tennis-playing and tennis-fan daughter, scratching our heads .

While I don't think this young lady is looking to be a professional tennis player, I have heard through the grapevine that she has potential on the high school team and could look to move up in position over the next couple of years. She may even want to play at the college level.

Thus, I can't help but wondering if by only playing her sport, and not studying it, if she is putting a ceiling on her development. Plus, frankly, that statement feels passion-less to me.

And without passion for your sport (or chosen career or your dreams), then what ultimately will drive her (or you) to keep practicing, improving, competing, and to stay dedicated and work hard, all the things you need to do to reach your full potential.

I can't imagine any of today's tennis stars saying they had no tennis idols and that they never had the desire to sit and watch a match play out that they weren't participating in.

I've watched many episodes of The Voice, and every single one of those aspiring artists--along with the judges that coached them--had studied their craft by listening to a variety artists that had influenced them since they were young.

My daughter is the best player on her flag football team. Wanna guess why? Because she loves watching football--college or pros--plays it on Madden all the time, watches the NFL draft, listens to NFL podcasts (and has her own by the way), collects NFL player's cards, etc. She understands the rules, knows the language of positions and plays, has seen successes and failures, and has seen what the best players do to separate themselves from the lesser players.

Of course, simply having passion isn't likely to get my daughter a spot on an NFL team, or make all four of The Voice judges turn around in the blind auditions for a contestant, or carry a tennis player all the way to the winner's trophy in a major tournament. However, I just cannot see how any of those things would be a remote possibility--even with all the natural born talent in the world--if the person doesn't have a deep love for what they are doing.

In the same vein, I don't believe you can be the best writer you can be without also reading the writing of others.

Personally, I don't feel it matters much what you read as long as you're reading a variety and at least some of your reading is relevant to the genre of writing you are engaged in. I just got done with a fiction novel, No Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. Just before that, I was reading The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday that is based on the philosophy of The Stoics. I'm now picking and choosing stories to read from The Year's Best Sports Writing 2021 and waiting for The Codebreaker, a book about Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues who invented an easy-to-use tool that can edit DNA, called CRISPR, to be ready for me at the library. In addition to these longer reads, I enjoy a variety of daily blog posts and podcasts, on a range of subjects such as managing employees, parenting techniques, insurance, sports, meditation, nutrition, politics, and more.

All of this content I inhale in a day/week/month makes me a better writer because...

  • Knowing how/what others have written ensures that I know what's been written previously and that I come up with a fresh and unique take

  • Reading a good piece of writing introduces me to techniques that I can incorporate into my content to make it more interesting

  • Another author's success is truly inspiring--if I read something I love, it gets my creative juices flowing and makes me want to come up with content that will inform and engage others

As a writer both in job choice and as a personal aspiration, I cannot imagine being asked, "What have you read lately?" being taken seriously if I answered: "Well, I really don't like to read." Silliness!


~ Stephen King

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