Just five years ago everyone read on the trains to work. Now everyone is glued to their devices. When once bookstores could be found in abundance, now many have closed. With so much information and entertainment at hand, we’ve learned to multitask. Consequently, to stop and read a good book has become… unusual.
While time for writing will always be an issue—no matter how much you have it’s never enough—you might be tempted to sacrifice reading time for writing time, or simply choose to chill out in front of the television after a busy day of squeezing in writing between work, children, and other commitments. After all, a movie, a show, and even games offer a form of storytelling, don’t they? Yet reading has so much more to offer than a movie, TV, a game. And here’s why:
Reading exposes us to the tool of our trade: words. The other avenues of storytelling use a wide range of tools to capture a mood, a scene, a story. Along with words in the form of dialogue and maybe narration, they also use camera angles, lighting, music, color, sound effects, visual effects, even interaction in the case of games. All we have is words. Nothing else.
The only way we can truly learn to wield the written word is to read the written word. Reading shows us how best to use those words, what works, what doesn’t. Reading increases our vocabulary, shows us grammar in action, and allows us to improve our skills of expressing creative ideas. Movies don’t typically delve into strings of inner thought, put reactions into words, or teach us anything to do with pacing in novels, even if the movie is based on a book.
If a crowd were to watch a movie about a cat on a mat, then each movie-goer would see exactly the same cat and mat. If the same number of people read a book about a cat on a mat, then each person would see a completely different cat and mat, no matter how particular the author might’ve been with the description. This is the wonderful, yet quirky, power of words. And it’s another reason why we need to regularly immerse ourselves in the gift of reading—to exercise our inner projector, and learn how to switch on the projectors in other people’s minds.
Reading forces us to focus on one task—delving into the story, conjuring in our minds the characters and environments, exercising our imagination. We can’t check our emails while reading, or play a game while reading. Even though we might be able to think of other things while reading, the basic task at hand is reading.
Reading keeps us up-to-date on what’s happening in the market. Not just at an industry level, but also at a basic language level. Our language and the way we use it is changing rapidly. Just read any book from twenty years ago and you’ll see a big difference to the way stories are written today. The social change we’ve seen in recent years also reflects the type of stories people want to read.
Reading supports the book industry. If you want to get published, then you’ll need an active market to sell your book. With the massive changes undergoing the industry and our personal lifestyles, the only way we can maintain a healthy market is if we read and encourage reading as much as possible.
There are countless other reasons we should be reading more. Can you think of a few more? How do you find the time to read? What is reading to you?
Lynda R Young
A cat on a mat we could have fun with that haha yep, can learn and see more through reading
I can only picture one cat on a mat - Pat's cat.
You're right. All other forms use so many things to convey a mood or a scene, while a book only uses words. I'm guilty of the movie watching. I'll go read tonight...
I try to read for at least thirty minutes every day. I have a stack of books I really want to read but I feel guilty for letting other things go. Sometimes if I watch a TV show, I read during the commercials.
Thank you for the reminder. I’m guilty of allowing my reading to drop off in favor of my writing and otherwise busy schedule. I’ve cut out a lot of TV too, which I don't miss, but I'd like to reclaim some of that lost reading time. One thing that's helped somewhat is audio books. They allow me to multi-task while listening to a good book. I also use my text-to-speech function for the same reason.
Reading develops imagination and memory.
Wonderful reminder to use our time wisely. I admit that sometimes I get a bit caught up in collapsing onto the couch at the end of the night to watch TV when I could be finishing up a book I'm reading instead.
Although, I don't think the devices are necessarily all bad. Many people spend a lot of time reading on their phones, and if I've got earbuds in it's because I'm listening to an audiobook. :)
Great reminder, and so true. There have been studies conducted that reveal that different things happen in our brains when we read, compared to watching TV or movies. Constructive, productive things. TV viewing is a more passive activity.
Your brain processes the written word very differently than it does the visual story. We need to keep that part of our brain active. Loved this post.
I couldn't imagine not reading! It is one magnificent way to feed and grow your imagination. Creativity leads to so many other great things.
For me, reading is a priority. I try to read for at least one hour every day.
I don't really watch TV and I'm not a movie-lover...
Pat, we can always have fun with cats because cats are just adorable. Just sayn ;)
Alex, Watching movies is fine as long as you don't neglect your reading time.
Susan, Ha, wish that could work for me. I just can't watch tv with commercials. And the sound of the commercials would be too distracting to read through (at least, not with any proper concentration).
Delynn, audio books a brilliant. Especially when driving long distances.
Bish, exactly right
Caitlin, I agree, the devices aren't all bad at all, but there's a lot of competition now with all the chooses we have--reading, games, YouTube, general surfing the net and so on.
Carol, TV viewing is definitely a passive activity.
Lee, and keeping it active keeps us sharp and creative.
Christine, so great to hear. I'm totally with you.
Michelle, that makes it easy :)
I've read two wonderful books in the last 24 hours. I hate television, and don't own a cell phone, hope I never need to. But I'm the kind of person who can shut the whole world out - in a crowded world - I can disappear.
Almost every successful writer I have ever heard of has been a compulsive reader.
The few exception mostly have hired a ghostwriter. Or killed someone famous.
I like the first method better.
Yolanda, I wish I could read that fast! And yep, it's nice to disappear on the occasion.
Nissa, I think compulsive reading and success as a writer go hand-in-hand.
Electronics can be totally cool, and are great for reading, too, but there's nothing like propping open a thickly-bound book with a gold-leaf title in your hands and casually flicking through the pages.
Too bad it kills trees though. Maybe they'll put to use a good paper alternative when there's no more forests to log.
It's sad that electronics and other gadgets have replace reading for so many people.
Excellent post! Loved it. How will we raise up writers when folks are texting constantly? EVEN during supper out with their family.
I don't watch TV except movies I've recorded on the DVR. I don't watch any shows. I'd rather be reading or writing. I love how visual and visceral movies can get, but I feel a different level of engagement when reading and I'm definitely maintaining and improving my language skills when doing it.
Sleepy, I'm with you. EReaders don't let you simply flip through the pages.
Diane, it is sad. I don't think people know what they are missing out on.
Robyn, yeah there's certainly been a change in our social lifestyles.
Medeia, reading engages the mind in a different way.
I rarely watch movies anymore because 99% of what's out there is garbage.
I do try to squeeze my reading in on the weekends, mostly as part of a routine with my writing.
I used to read a lot at work, but circumstances have forced me to abandon that avenue, so I do crosswords (which is a good way to use all that stored arcane knowledge that I acquired from reading).
Father Nature's Corner
Plus, reading is an exclusionary task, if that's the right word (!). You can listen to music while reading, of course, but in general if the story is a good one and the words are absorbing (both as words and for the story), then the reader can disappear into a book for hours. Whereas while watching TV we chat, knit, sew, iron, clean, eat, surf the web, shop online, etc. I love the total absorption involved in reading!
And now I have Tolkien's Fat cat sat on the mat poem stuck in my head...
I'll take a book over a movie any day - especially a book I can hold in my hands, prop in my lap, turn the page back if I just have to savor it once again. I love my kindle, but it's just not the same. So many terrific points raised here, not the least of which is the sheer enjoyment! I'll read any chance I get - even waiting for the toast to pop up!
GB, it's good to have a reading routine.
Deniz, that total absorption while reading is such a wonderful thing.
Diedre, when buying a bag, my strict requirement was that it had to be able to fit a thick book in it. I love that you read even while waiting for toast. Brilliant.
Thanks for pointing out some of the reasons writers should read. It is my opinion that writers who want to leave footprints are voracious readers. So, yes, I read a lot. It is a top priority in my life.
I do not remember NOT knowing how to read. My mom was an English teacher, helping my dad get through uni, and he was my original care-giver, so he took me to class with him and I sat in his lap, or listened to either Glenn Miller or Beethoven on the record player, while he studied Torts or some bizarre aspect of law that he needed to know to become a CPA in Michigan in 1959.
So, reading was a very big deal in our house and it still is in mine, over movies any day. Part of the thing I love about reading is the immersive quality and the fact that you DO have to exercise your imagination. I was, when growing up, compelled to grab a dictionary to read the definitions of words that I came across and could not suss out the contextual meaning by their usage in the sentence I was reading.
We also learn about the origin of words, their etiology and how they've influenced our culture, or if you listen to other languages, you'll notice that English words crop up in foreign languages, more and more. Reading and writing usage are alive and very fluid in the way language adapts readily to changing culture and it's moving faster all the time. I think it's more realistic actually, when picked up in chat rooms, or in MMORPGs, than trying to listen to some actors be all "up to date" in a movie, using the current lingo. By the time a movie has moved through production and is released, the current lingo is 6 to 9 months out of date; this is just an observation, as I play a game with hundreds of thousands of players and they keep me up to date! :) Mary
I found reading a powerful tool when I was first starting out. It helped me learn what worked and didn't work. It also came in handy when the power went out and tv wasn't an option.
More than movies, watching a TV series has become a huge temptation for me. It's easy to watch an episode without commercials (depending on your setup). It almost feels like reading a chapter in a book, and can be so relaxing at the end of the day. I can multitask and fold laundry, etc., while watching. It's also a good way to observe current culture and dialog (I don't have teens living at home anymore). But it's never a replacement for the written word. I love your example of the cat and how differently people interpret what they read. One could make the same argument for the visual story I guess, but with this exception: reading a book is a one on one experience with the written word. It increases our vocabulary, sparks our imagination, and ups our intelligence. I write better, the more I read!
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