You probably already know, without reading any further, just what I am going to say. Writer’s are people and just like any other group of people, some will read a lot and some will read less.
I think when people who want to become a writer ask how much other writers read or if it is important to read a lot, the real question they are asking is this: Can I still be a succesful writer/author if I don’t read a lot?
To this I say there is a short and a long answer. The short answer is probably yes but the longer answer is much more interesting so I really would encourage you to read on. Look on the bright side, if you take nothing else away from this then you will at least be able to say that you read a little more today than you otherwise would have. Small mercies am I right?
So on to the long answer. Some writers swear that reading is one of, if not THE most important thing they do outside of writing. Other writers don’t really read all that much and some used to read a lot but now claim they no longer have the time, none are right and none are wrong in my eyes.
When I was a child I read several books a year, probably three to five and that was enough to get me excited about writing. It introduced me to a medium of stories which I enjoyed and wanted to emulate and so I wrote my first bits of prose.
Through my teenage years I read probably one book a year, maybe two at a push but usually just one and I didn’t write all that much. What I did as a teenager however was spend hours a day pacing up and down my bedroom creating stories in my head. I didn’t write many of them down and if I did it was never the complete story, I would just play them out from start to end in my mind. I played a lot of Final Fantasy and went through a period of wanting to write video games, as such I took a lot of my inspiration from video games and made the stories look like video games in my minds eye.
Now I read more than I ever have before and am intending to read a minimum of fifty two books this year, or in other words one book a week.
So you could say I have sampled the view from all of what I consider the three main camps when it comes to reading and writing.So why don’t I think it is the be all and end all whether you read that much or not? Well because if you take away the writing part of being a writer what is it you want to do? It is to be a storyteller and stories are told in many different mediums. There is film and television, there are plays and other stage shows, there are radio and other audio stories along with likely countless other mediums (can you say sitting around the campfire). It doesn’t matter where you learn to craft stories from as long as you do LEARN.
The way in which reading becomes more important is in two parts: first it keeps you up to date on trends in publishing, if you read a lot of current releases you know what publishers are choosing to publish and what they know they can sell, this gives you an obvious edge when picking which of your projects you should turn into a novel. Secondly it teaches you a lot about writing, you can see things you like and don’t like in the way things are written, you can increase your vocabulary and you can learn about how long chapters should be or when it is and isn’t sensible to swap between character view points and so on.
I will leave you with this final thought, reading won’t make a great storyteller but when all other things are equal, he (or she) who reads the most will probably be better.