What You’re Reading REALLY Matters
Irish writer and politician Richard Steele once remarked, “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”
His point? If you want your mind to get stronger, you have to read. And as a writer, reading is one of the most important tools to help you infuse your writing with more creativity.
Welcome back to day three of The Writer’s Life and keys to developing infinite creativity.
I’ve always been an avid reader. But recently, I had to face an ugly truth – I discovered I was a “reading snob.” I used to pride myself on reading fiction only occasionally. Most of what I read until my revelation was on personal development or something that would aid my career. I simply didn’t have time to read stories.
That was until I heard Brian Clark (serial entrepreneur and founder of Copyblogger) speak at AWAI’s Bootcamp last October. He emphasized the importance of reading, reading a lot, and reading everything, including fiction!
What you read does matter. So, read everything, even the copy on the kids’ cereal boxes! Read junk mail, snail mail and fundraising letters. Read books on copywriting and works of fiction, because it all matters. It all becomes “grist for the mill.”
Reading is key to keeping the well full and the ideas flowing. Here’s how to get the most out of everything you read:
First, when you read something important, capture it. This could be as easy as simply writing it down on an index card or in a journal. When I’m reading on one of my apps (Kindle, Nook or iBooks), I’ll take a screenshot and then transfer it later over to Evernote. This allows me to index what I read, so I can more easily locate it in the future. The next time I’m doing research for an article, book chapter, blog posting or a myriad of other things, I can do a subject search.
Second, apply the 80/20 rule to reading. Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto developed the idea that 20% of our efforts will produce 80% of our results. You can read more about the Pareto principle here.
When I’m doing research, many times I’ll read the preface, which usually contains a summary of what the author is going to talk about, scan the table of contents and then speed read some chapters, taking time out to read others a bit more in depth. Do I miss some things? Sure, but I’m able to get 80% of the information that I need.
Third, balance your reading out. Make sure you’re reading a variety of things: fiction, how to, biography, history and even philosophy. While you’re at it, review the classics by Aristotle, Homer and Shakespeare.
Also, be sure to read things with which you disagree. Balancing out your reading will allow you to learn to think widely – to be more open-minded and see different points of view. As long as the subjects are different, you might keep several different books going at one time.
Be a great reader. The late Jim Rohn, one of the deans of personal development said, “Successful people have libraries. The rest have big screen TVs.” Reading is the key to developing non-stop creativity.
What do you like reading? What is your reading goal per week or month? What are you reading now? Let me know about it below.
Do you ever get distracted from your writing? Don’t despair, it’s good for you and your writing. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you why.
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