The link between reading and becoming a good writer

    Freelance writing and ghostwriting has become a profitable venture during the last year of lockdowns, as explains. Should you consider this path, you might stumble onto a career that will last for a lifetime.

    But how can you become a better writer? You already learned all the rules of grammar in grade school. Technically, you possess all the writing knowledge, so why aren’t you cranking out novels or charging  $300 per article?

    Writing can be a more technical craft, but it is also a more artistic and spiritual venture. A writer is not just like any other profession; it is a type of person. So, how can you “become” such a professional? By reading, of course.

    Being intelligent and effective are two different things. It is not uncommon for people with intelligence and talent to fail because they did not persevere with their craft.

    Some very imaginative writers have fallen through the cracks because they weren’t interested in practicing, reading, and expanding their horizons. As a professional writer, you have to know that there are limits to even the broadest skill set and that you need to find inspiration in the work of others via reading.

    Benefits of reading

    Human beings use language and words to form thoughts. Even if someone has the brainpower to understand complexity, it is still half the battle.

    Without a broad vocabulary, there won’t be any way to express specific ideas. Giving something a word label makes it easier to juggle inside your head. It gives you the power over that concept, as you will be able to twist, compare, mock, praise, or allude to it.

    This is the first benefit of reading: you can’t have broad thoughts without a broad vocabulary. And it is not advisable to open a thesaurus or dictionary and start memorizing pages. Reading allows you to organically learn about new concepts and words while enjoying a compelling narrative.

    The second benefit is armchair psychology.

    If you are writing some characters, the story will fail if they all think and act like you, the author. It is often said that good characters write themselves. This means that a well-defined character with an evident personality and boundary is almost on auto-pilot.

    For example, you sort of know how Gandalf from the Lord of The Rings would react to a specific situation, even if you haven’t read it yet. His actions are predictable because his personality is accurate and consistent.

    That being said, before you can write these deep and well-defined characters, you have to get out of your head and learn how people tick. Admittedly, some writers have a natural talent for “getting” how others work. But most of us need to expand our thought patterns via reading.

    Thanks to reading, you can walk beside Achilles at the siege of Troy, sit in a chamber where a widow grieves a lost son, or hear the thoughts of a person who is conspiring to overthrow their king.

    You can read about heroes, liars, adventurers, rogues, artisans, politicians, vagrants, and any other shade of personality. You will travel deserts, oceans, and deep forests.

    It is hard to overestimate just how much this supercharges your mind and improves your ability to see things from different perspectives. If you read enough, making up realistic characters will become a walk in the park.

    Learn from the best

    When compared to any other profession, writers have an inherent advantage.  Most products and services are fiercely guarded by the company that has the trademark. Corporate espionage is a prolific practice and problem.

    In writing, there are no arcane secrets and hidden formulas locked away in underground vaults.  For a small fee, or even for free, you can read the masters of this craft since the beginning of time.

    An avid reader can easily deconstruct and reverse-engineer the methods and winning formulas and reproduce them himself. The most popular books on the market are highly derivative, and nobody is bothered by that.

    As a writer, you have to remember a single lesson: when you borrow from just one source, it is called plagiarism. But when you borrow from multiple sources, it is called research.

    Books that will make you a better writer

    First, we have The Sacred and the Profane: The nature of religion, by Romanian-American author Mircea Eliade. For the exact same purpose, you can read just about anything written by Joseph Campbell.

    You can easily search for writing, grammar, syntax, and structure tutorials on Google. You do not need this article’s help for that.  However, some books don’t automatically come into mind when considering this topic.

    Your goals as a writer are to hit deep.  Pop culture novels aside, writing often aims to move the human soul while entertaining the reader. The best-kept secret in fiction is that we keep telling the same old stories, using the same ancient archetypes.

    The same patterns keep repeating in myths, literature, and stories from the dawn of time.  The names and the language change, yet the distillate essence of the human experience is the same.

    The Star Wars story was a Sci-Fi script.  Sure, it was set in outer space. But it had knights, wizards, evil emperors, and the classic Hero’s journey ( read Campbell’s “The hero with a thousand faces”.)

    Transhumanism is a lie because humans face the same moral struggles and go through the same journeys regardless of time and age. Problems and dilemmas that plagued the Roman Empire are seen in modern 21st-century megacities.

    Sure, the nuance and the background changes, but the underlying message stays the same. There are no new humans; thus, there are no new humanities to talk of—just the same one.

    Eliade and Campbell’s works will help you to understand those facts and identify those patterns.


    Humans like to tell stories. We understand our lives via stories, as we often see ourselves as the main characters of a narrative. We tell ourselves stories about our relationships, the founding of our countries, divinity, and happiness and strife, and about every aspect of life.

    We can’t think of life outside of these archetypes. A good writer realizes that he doesn’t get to write the archetypes; he writes about them. The patterns were there since the start.

    Sure, then you still have to learn grammar, syntax, spelling, etc. But that doesn’t automatically make you a great writer. After all, technical manuals are well-written in that regard, but nobody is rushing to buy them outside of their intended purpose.

    Reading is the first and most crucial step when familiarizing yourself with what humans are, and how their mind works. After accomplishing that, the rest is just filler.

    Arts in one place.

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