The idea is all around us: writers must read. Reading makes better writers. What’s all this hype? Is it really true? And most importantly, how can reading get us unstuck and beyond writer’s block?
Reading gives us the opportunity, not only to get lost in a story, but to wonder what the author did to take us there.
How can we learn and get motivated by what we read?
1) Underline passages that call out to you. Put a post-it note on the page to come back to it later.
Sometimes I revisit marked passages as a kind of writing prompt. What did I like about the passage? Was it a certain word or mood? Was it the author’s ability to explain something really well? Try to analyze what made the passage work, and think about ways you could try that on your own. I always find that gets my creative juices flowing!
2) Imitate the author’s style to see what you can learn. The cool thing here is that you can learn both from authors you like and don’t like! Take an idea– preparing your favorite dish for example, and try to write about it as Hemingway or Faulkner. This type of exercise is helpful in noticing what works in a master writer’s style. It also helps us to see what we are drawn to. Here’s the thing for me: I have never done this exercise and not wanted to keep on writing, trying new things.
3) Play with words. Open to a random page in a book you’re reading now, close your eyes and drop your finger on the page. Whatever word you land on, use that as a writing prompt. What would happen if your main character said it? What would happen if you used it as a chapter title? Could it be the central idea of a poem?
These are all ideas that I get a lot of mileage out of, if you will, as a writer. Even more satisfying, so many writers over the years have gotten themselves unstuck using these, and other tips I’ve offered in their work with me.
I’d love to hear how they worked for you, so please do leave a comment below or tweet me.
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