Writing Successfully: You Are What You Read (Part 2 of 9)

Jeff S. Bray
5 min readJul 29, 2020
You Are What You Read

As a writer, I tend to get wrapped up in the process of writing. Whether I am completing a project or trying to land that next writing job, I am always in the act of writing. While it is good to have the habit down, you should always give yourself some downtime. Allow your fingers to relax and the smoke coming off the keyboard to clear. Don’t worry; you will be active in other things. I know how concerned I can get when I am not writing. I am sure you feel that same anxiety if you are not writing as well.

Previously we addressed a couple of things you need to know about being a successful writer. The first was to be writing regularly. To be setting a daily goal and meeting it. The second was not giving up; no matter what type of rejection you get. Now, we continue with a suggestion that some writers often overlook — reading.

Reading: Take a Break

If you have learned one thing about me, it is that I am a big fan of Stephen King. Throughout this Writing Successfully series, I will use quotes from him quite often. Here is one, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others; read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcuts.”

I cannot think of a better way of using my spare time than to take a break and read a good book. Most likely, if you are a writer, you read quite a bit already, so this is basically a reminder of the importance of soaking in all you can to mold yourself into a better writer. American literacy expert and author, Pam Allyn is quoted, “Reading is like breathing in, writing is like breathing out.” You learn from what you read, and the effect is evident in the writing that is produced.

Another author I take joy in reading is Max Lucado. I love how he tells stories within his books to make a point. He uses stories he has heard, or more often, he uses life experiences to give his reader insight into Biblical truth. Within my personal blog that I have, I have emulated that style. It helps that I am older now and have acquired those stories that help me to convey the subject I am writing on. I will cover more on that in the next story about where a writer gets ideas and how to implement them into your writing.

Now that you have a writing goal set for yourself, it is now equally important that you have a reading goal set as well. My first year I did this I set out to read one book a month; I didn’t want to set the bar too high. Well, I met my goal. The second year I set out to read two a month, I ended up reading 28. In 2018, I read 29 books. In 2019, I read 42. You may be able to read more or less. The point is to set a goal that you are comfortable with, and sure you can accomplish. For a beginner, one book a month is most certainly doable. If you end up reading more, then that’s great.

Reading: Sharpen Your Writing Tools

“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” –Stephen King

Yes, another quote from SK. He talks about another reason to read a lot. The first was the simple pleasure of reading and using that pleasure to help you create your style. That is done by taking the styles of those you read and adding your own flair to the mix. This one brings about the importance of reading to sharpen your writing tools.

I read a quote, and even after some research, I cannot find who said it, but it goes like this, “I always read books twice. The first time you appreciate the story, the second time you appreciate the writing.” While I do not read my books twice, this quote has caused me to read a little slower, trying to take in both the story and the style that I am reading. While reading the book, I was in the middle of studying that quote, The Horse and His Boy, I tried that method. I love how C.S. Elliot puts in his asides. In the middle of his story, he pauses and talks to the reader. It’s usually about a point that needs to be made, most of the time referring to a previous event or something that took place in an earlier book.

There is more than just appreciating the writing. It’s about noticing the structure and cadence of an author’s writing style. Varying styles can be learned through works of fiction as well as non-fiction instructional books like The Elements of Style by William Strunk. This book was suggested in Stephen King’s book, On Writing. The Elements of Style has made a tremendous difference in my writing. It is essentially a book of rules about writing. Another great resource is Spellbinding Sentences by Barbara Baig. Its title is indicative of its content and a great tool I have used for my writing.

Final Thoughts

If your passion is to write, then you should have an equal passion for reading. It is through reading that we hone our skills for writing. What you choose to read becomes who you are as a writer. If you read little, then you will produce little. Yes, you may still write, but that writing will never evolve. Remember, our subject here is successful writing. To become successful, you must grow. I leave you with a story as an illustration: (Thank you to Max Lucado’s writing style)

My son Chris is a weightlifter. He is part of the Powerlifting team at his school. If Chris never went to practice, his muscles would eventually be lost to atrophy. If he never added five pounds to his lifting max, then his muscles would not build upon themselves for him to continue to lift more. The same goes for your writing. If you do not add weight to your writing toolbox, then you can never grow as a writer. You add to your toolbox by reading and educating yourself about writing. You can never learn too much, and your toolbox has an endless capacity.

Go out there. Read, learn, and write. Work out those literary muscles. It is a cycle, just like breathing in and breathing out.

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Jeff S. Bray is a freelance writer and published author. You can follow him on his website JeffSBrayAuthor.com. All of his novels and children’s books are available on Amazon.

Isabella Media, Inc is a Rhode Island-based, family-owned, mainline publishing organization with a mission to discover unknown authors. We combine unknown authors’ undiscovered potential with Isabella Media Inc’s unique approach to publishing and provide them with the highest quality books and the most inclusive benefits package available. Isabella Media Inc was formed to serve you, the author, as a traditional, mainline royalty publishing company and provide a platform for unknown authors. We listen to your feedback and create a collaborative atmosphere with our authors in the belief that you’ll come back to us with your next book.

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Jeff S. Bray

Christian Author and Freelance Writer specializing in helping writers excel in their craft and working with parents to develop a child’s hunger for reading.