If You Want to Make More Money Writing, Read More
Cut through the noise of writing coaches.
Here’s a secret: Shortcuts don’t work.
If they did, everyone would be rich. There would only be one writing guide in the entire world. There wouldn’t be hundreds of writing coaches out there, all with their own tips and a slate of e-books and seminars.
Some of these courses might help you. The right one with the right teacher could make all the difference. But sooner or later, you have to get self-sufficient. You have to cut through the noise. You have to become your own writing coach, and your own editor.
There’s only one strategy to help you make money from your writing that pays off a hundred percent of the time.
It’s called reading.
It’s the best career investment you’ll ever make.
The most successful writers are avid readers.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you how much money I make. I don’t need to. I’m not going to take up your time with a story about how I got here. It’s not that interesting. (But it does involve bourbon.)
You should always judge the quality of someone’s advice by putting it into practice, and seeing the results.
I’ll say this:
Time and again, the least successful writers I meet all say the same thing: “I don’t have time to read.”
They’re the ones that give up after six months.
The most successful writers I know are voracious readers.
They read practically everything.
Reading is the best teacher.
Ever wonder how the best writing coaches know so much?
They read, a lot.
They read what’s popular. They read what isn’t. They pull apart paragraphs and sentences, just like a mechanic does an engine. They see how all the parts fit together to make it work.
Reading is the cheapest teacher.
Reading is cheap.
For the price of an online class, or a creative writing degree, you can support a lifelong habit of reading. Honestly, take all the writing classes you want. They’ll only help you if you read.
Reading is the best cure for writer’s block.
A lot of writers wrestle with their muse. They either struggle to find ideas, or they struggle to express them.
Reading cures all of this.
If you’re blocked, go read something you’re interested in. Read something you’re curious about. Read someone you admire. Read something you disagree with. Read someone you can’t stand.
It’s good for you. It lights up your brain.
All of your ideas come from the same two places: What you observe and experience in the world, and what you read about.
You need to read for an hour a day.
It doesn’t matter what kind of writing you want to get good at. Whatever else you do, you have to read. You should be reading in your genre for an hour a day. If you have time, make it two hours.
Reading reveals the craft of writing.
You need to study what you read.
Study the length of those books and articles. Study the word choice. Study the style and grammar. Study the nouns and verbs. Study titles and first sentences. Study conclusions and final sentences.
Study everything. Every detail.
You don’t have to look at every single detail of every single thing you read. That would be exhausting. But you should learn to pay attention to the key elements of the writing you love.
Reading helps you keep up with trends.
Writing guides get stale quickly.
Readers’ tastes and preferences change every few months. They get interested in different topics. Short posts dominate for a while. Then longer ones make a comeback. The same holds true for formatting, and everything else. Reading is the only way to keep up.
Some writers reject trends.
That’s fine. You do you. If you want to make money doing something you love, you have to adapt. You have to stay current. You can’t write like Mark Twain did and expect that to resonate with readers now.
Reading helps you develop your voice.
They say you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. The same thing goes for writers.
Your writing is the average of the authors you spend the most time reading, but also the work that’s had the deepest impact on you. That’s not a bad thing. Your writing is always an amalgam of the different voices and styles you’ve picked up along the way. Every famous writer and literary theorist will tell you this. Even now, you can pick up on traces and echoes of other writers when you read my sentences.
Every successful writer has their own list of influences and personal favorites. There’s no point in sharing mine.
You need to make your own.
A diverse reading list keeps your writing fresh.
After you have your favorites, you need to mix it up.
Lots of writers get caught in the same trap. They start reading the same five authors every single day. Pretty soon, they’re all churning out the same generic stuff. Readers get bored.
The answer is diversity.
Learn to spot your biases. It’s easy to fall into a rut where you only read people who look and sound like you. Make yourself read things you normally wouldn’t. Explore new authors. Explore new genres and topics. Read some poetry. Read some political analysis.
It’s good for you.
Reading helps support other writers.
Not everything’s about you.
Other writers out there are trying to make an income. They produce quality work. They deserve attention.
Any success you experience will be short-lived if you don’t help other writers. The best way to help them is to read their work.
When you do, they notice.
This isn’t the same as forming a little clique with quid pro quo arrangements. It’s about giving back to a larger community.
Reading is a writer’s nourishment.
A lot of writers don’t like to read.
It’s a weird thing to admit, but it’s true. Back when I was 19 or 20, just starting out, I used to be one of those writers. My work was terrible. All I got were rejection letters. Tumbleweeds rolled across my blog. Crickets chirped. I wallowed in confusion and envy.
That was a long time ago. Since then, I’ve learned to enjoy reading. I down a book every week, or the equivalent.
For writers, reading is a form of nourishment.
The more you read, the easier it gets.
There’s plenty of books and articles out there about reading strategies. Some of them contain useful information about reading faster, and retaining more of what you read. But here’s the bottom line:
The more you read, the better you’ll get at it.
Your brain will adapt. You’ll teach yourself how to skim when you need to. You’ll learn when to ditch a book that’s not holding your attention, and find something you’re in the mood for.
It’s going to be hard if you’re not used to reading a lot. It might feel slow. Your mind might wander.
Start off with 30 minutes a day.
Go from there.
Reading is the foundation of a writing career.
There’s an odd thing about writers. We usually don’t read enough. Some of us even brag about how little we read.
We say we don’t want to be influenced.
This idea is misguided.
The most successful writers read as much as they can. They have influences. They have favorites. They find reading rewarding, and relaxing. They read for pleasure, and they read for work.
Reading dramatically improves their writing. They don’t just pound out writing advice all day long. They produce content for readers. They tell compelling stories. They educate. They inform. They share their views and experiences with the world, and they make a living from it.
You can do this.
It all starts with reading.
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