By Jane Sandwood
You might love writing, but if you don’t regularly read you’re probably not going to be able to write well. It sounds harsh, but imagine a painter who doesn’t view artwork. Imagine a florist who doesn’t pay attention to flowers. Reading has many general benefits, such as providing an escape from stress, but there are also benefits that specifically apply to writers.
Research from the University of Toronto found that when people read short stories or non-fiction articles before having their tolerance for uncertainty tested, those who read the stories were less likely to need cognitive closure, which is defined as the need to have a quick conclusion without any ambiguity. Readers of fiction specifically had a greater ability to think creatively without getting tied down to one idea or conclusion. This is good for you as a writer as it helps you flex your imagination muscle, find writing inspiration around you, and get those creative juices flowing. Here are other reasons why you should pick up a book on a regular basis.
Build Your Vocabulary
Various research has shown that reading provides benefits for students: the more they read, the more they improve their vocabulary. As a writer, with more words at your disposal, you’re better armed to express what you mean and describe a thrilling world for your reader.
Improve Your Analytical Skills
Reading books is more beneficial to you than just reading newspapers or websites. You’re not just skimming headlines but going deeper into a story. You’re thinking critically as you read a novel or work of non-fiction. Your brain is actually making connections, creating new pathways between its four lobes and both of its hemispheres. These neural pathways encourage quicker thinking, which is beneficial when you’re drawing up your novel plot.
Gain More Knowledge
Reading books gives you information that becomes part of your accumulated knowledge. As a writer, you never know when this information will be useful, such as when researching your novel or following writing advice such as “write what you know.” When you know more, you can write more.
Boost Your Empathy
When you’re completely absorbed by a novel that’s filled with characters who are interesting and well-rounded, you’ll find it easier to relate to them. You can imagine putting yourself in their shoes. Literary fiction has the ability to help readers understand what other people are going through by reading their emotions, according to research published in the Science journal. When you can understand others’ decisions, motives, and emotions, this equips you with empathy that seeps into your writing – and creates a stronger novel that readers will enjoy and be able to relate to on an emotional level.
Reading Encourages Your Five Senses
An amazing fact is that reading stimulates the brain’s neurological parts so that you feel like you’re actually living the experiences in the book. Spanish research found that when you read the word “cinnamon” it activates the olfactory part of the brain associated with smell. French research found that when reading about someone doing something, such as running or jumping, the movement part of their brain is stimulated. By reading, you can, therefore, immerse yourself in various experiences that encourage your five senses to work more. This can carry over to your writing, creating intriguing and riveting stories.
Reading Helps You Relax
Not only does reading help you to boost your writing skills, but it can also provide a good escape from it, like when you’re experiencing a case of writer’s block. Research from the University of Sussex found that reading is an effective way to relax and de-stress. When people’s heart rates and muscle tension were monitored after reading, researchers found it took just six minutes of reading for their bodies to relax by up to 68 percent. Take some time off to read and you’ll be back on the writing horse in no time.
Jane Sandwood is a professional freelance writer and editor with over 10 years’ experience working across many fields. When Jane isn’t writing, she is busy spending time with her family. She also enjoys music, reading and travelling whenever she can.
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