Sometimes I fear that this incantation means that, since I'm a mom of 4 little ones, the best I can expect from myself is the likes of Fancy Nancy, PJ Funny Bunny, Frank Was A Monster Who Wanted To Dance, and The Spooky Old Tree. Blessedly, though, that isn't what this means. As a writer, you probably understand, as I do, that reading is so very important to your children and silly books like these are meant to develop that love.
What it does mean for you, though, is that you need to be reading things on your own time that are beyond the 1st grade reading level of Pinkalicious. Now, I'm a busy mom and I absolutely understand the lack of time. If you are a working mom, you have your job on top of housework and children. If you stay at home, you can't just read all day and ignore your babies and your housework. Everyone's got to eat, and you have to cook that too. Well, this might just be my opinion, but I believe that a lot of my writer friends share it: TRY AUDIO BOOKS. They are the same as reading, and while you might worry about paying attention, I will promise that it's not as hard to focus on the story as you might imagine. The last book I actually picked up and read was The Book Thief, and that was nearly 3 years ago. My house went unkempt and my children unbathed for 3 days. Before that, it was Twilight. In one year, though, I have "read" over 30 ground-moving books on audio, and my life is the better for it. (I listen while I'm cleaning, I listen while I'm driving, and if I grocery shop alone, I listen while I shop.)
Writing as well as you read isn't just about reading though. For a child, reading whatever they're interested in is a good thing because it's fostering a love of reading. Assuming you're an adult and have a fluent grasp on reading the English language, it's important for you to choose books that reflect your own age, maturity, and the type of writing you would like to crate on your own. It does not mean that if you write science fiction, for example, that it is only acceptable for you to read science fiction. Indeed, it's important to read many genres and expand your horizons. Learning about new subjects only expands your expertise and might, in fact, give you something other writers don't have, and that makes you unique. Being unique is something that every writer must have in order to be remembered.
On the topic of variety, let me give you a tip: stash a book in every place where you might be caught waiting. I listen to my long books on audio, but I also keep other things stashed throughout the house. It's a little bit embarrassing to admit, but I am a crazy fanatic of the DC comic "Elf Quest", and I have an Elf Quest graphic novel stashed in my downstairs bathroom. In my upstairs bathroom, during the summer time, I have my favorite summer book Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, which is replaced by Something Wicked This Way Comes, also by Ray Bradbury, in the fall. At the moment, I have two books in my purse. One is my notebook for writing down ideas, quotes and conversation snippets or observations in my travels, and one is The Princess Bride. Yes, I have read them all multiple times, but that just means that I won't get confused or lost or mind too much if I have to read them in short intervals. But it keeps my mind working, imagining, and creating. Also, in the evening, after we read several children's books like the ones mentioned in the first paragraph, I read a chapter of a novel to my children. Right now, we are working on the Chronicles of Narnia. We are half way through A Horse and his Boy.
In addition to that, we read the scriptures daily. Scriptures, be it the Book of Mormon, the Bible, Torah, or any other religious book, I feel is pretty pertinent to any writer, religious or not. Ancient lore and myth were once someones religion, and one day, current religion may very well be considered lore or myth. Religion, or even religious undertones are one way that a writer can put symbolism into their writing and connect with their readers. Yes, you can create your own symbolism, but if you're writing in the historical fiction/nonfiction genre, you'll want to know your facts.
On the whole, though, we're talking about quality. Beware the "trends". Crap is still crap, even if many of your friends recommend it. Of course, this works two ways. Your friends might recommend some wonderful insights. You will need to hone this realization in the same way a character in a book might hone their magic skills. Have you trusted a friend in the past who talked about how amazing a book was, and you read it only to discover a shallow plot, forced characters, and a cliche ending? Well, maybe she was wrong once, and once only. So, maybe don't discount her immediately, but if this is a recurring trend, just say thanks, and find your reading material elsewhere. On the other hand, if you have a friend (I am blessed to have multiple) who continually offer you what I like to call life-changing or earth-shattering books that leave you laughing, in tears, or connected to the characters in such ways that you simply must refer to them as "old friends" (I do this with the characters from Robert Jordan and Brandon Sandersen's Wheel Of Time series) then you've got a great reference, and you should nearly always trust their judgement.
In essence, you write what you read, and if you only read crap, your writing will be crap. But if you read excellence, thus will be your writing.
***For a list of some of MY favorite books, please visit my bookshelf on Good Reads by clicking the icon on my right sidebar! I will NEVER steer you wrong!
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