I'm reading the most incredible novel right now. It's frenetic, engaging, and emotional in ways I had never imagined. I can't put it down. It's consumed my life. I'm enraged that I didn't think of the idea first.
Of course, I'm talking about The Armored Saint by Myke Cole. You all need to read this book. It's brilliant.
Okay, with that plug out of the way, let's talk about reading.
I've been stuck in my writing as of late. I haven't felt the same pull to action, the drive to lay down words, that I had before. In fact, I went whole weeks without putting anything new on paper. As someone building a writing career, that's not a smart move. In fact, it was a failure of many plans at once.
Now, before we move on, let me clarify: You do NOT have to write every day to be a writer. If you can, that's amazing. Great job. Here's a cookie. But if you can't, if you only manage a few words here or there, that's fine too. Find your rhythm, find your pace, and stick to it.
As for me, I was a bit depressed. Let's face it: The news these days is rampant doom and gloom. It's hard for me to find motivation to get anything done when the world is a prolapsed anus hastily disposed of in a burning landfill. Every time I sat down to write, I just thought, "Ugh. Why bother? The world is over in a few years anyway. We're basically just biding time until the lobster monsters from the moon take control."
Then I started reading again.
Suddenly, I'm at the keyboard again. I'm typing. I'm creating. Worlds are born (and then crushed), heroes rise (only to fall twice as hard). My motivation is back, and it's all thanks to reading.
You should read no matter what. First of all, it's the way I want to make a living. If you're not reading, then my books stay painfully on their shelves (a book on a store shelf is in constant agony, that's just a fact. Being purchased is akin to that feeling of cleaning out your ears with a Q-tip). More than just my livelihood, reading makes you a better person. Reading enhances your empathy, brings you into worlds you could never imagine, and allows you to share in an experience with other people around the world.
As writers, reading builds your vocabulary, invigorates your style, and teaches you techniques you might have otherwise missed. When I see a good opening line, I make a note. When I see a great turn of phrase, I make a note. When I start crying or yelping or laughing because of a particular scene, I make a note. That's some top-quality writing.
Once, while reading Stephen King, I threw my book across the room. I believe that was during It, and I seriously considered never finishing the book because of how scared it made me.
Once, while reading Lord of the Rings, I screamed in elation as Rohan joined the battle at Gondor in the plight of man.
Once, while reading a book in the Barfology series, I nearly puked.
Reading makes you a more well-rounded creator. You need to be exploring new worlds even as you build your own. You need to learn how others breathe life into their characters so you can do the same. You need to understand how George R.R. Martin can spend 15 pages describing a dinner in order to reckon with his decade-long writing process.
Most of all, you need to support your fellow writers, and buying their books (and reading them, and reviewing them) is a key part of that.
Back to Myke Cole. I got into his work through his sardonic Twitter persona, only to discover he had written a series near and dear to my heart. My writing partner and I had been working on an urban fantasy piece called Mystic when I discovered Myke's Shadow Ops series. There were key thematic similarities, and the openings had very real echoes.
At first, I was disheartened. Someone had already gone to the well where I thought to get a drink.
But then I realized something far more important: My idea had legs, it was just that someone else was using them at the moment. It meant that I could still explore that world, I just needed to find a new angle.
That led to me buying a few more of Myke's books, and finally reading The Armored Saint.
So, long story short, buy some fucking books. And read them.
And always be write.