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