Should You Read While You Write? Insights From a Book Coach
As a book coach, one of the most common questions I get asked is, "Should I read while I'm writing?" This question is not as straightforward as it may seem. Reading and writing are two sides of the same coin, both essential for anyone who wants to improve their craft. However, how and when you incorporate reading into your writing process can significantly impact your productivity and creativity.
Understanding the Relationship Between Reading and Writing
Before we delve into whether you should read while you write, it's crucial to understand the relationship between these two activities. Reading widely and regularly can help you become a better writer. It exposes you to different styles of writing, broadens your vocabulary, enhances your understanding of narrative structure, and provides inspiration for your own work.
However, reading while in the middle of a writing project can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can provide fresh ideas and perspectives that can enrich your work. On the other hand, it can also lead to comparison and self-doubt or even unintentional plagiarism. An author friend I know ran his work through a plagiarism checker and it threw up some content as being possibly plagiarised. It was purely because he read extensively in that subject area.
The Pros: Inspiration and Learning
Reading other authors' works while working on your project has several benefits. First off, it can serve as an excellent source of inspiration. Seeing how others have tackled similar themes or structures might spark new ideas for your work.
Secondly, reading is an invaluable learning tool for writers. By analysing other authors' works – their characterisation techniques, narrative structures, and dialogue styles – you can gather insights that will help improve your own writing skills.
Lastly, reading widely helps you stay current with trends in literature and publishing. As a book coach, I always advise my clients to keep abreast with what's popular in their genre or field; this knowledge could be instrumental in making their work more marketable.
The Cons: ‘Comparisonitis’ and Unintentional Plagiarism
While reading during the writing process has its advantages, it also comes with potential pitfalls. One of the biggest challenges is the risk of falling into the trap of comparison. Reading a brilliantly crafted novel while struggling with your own manuscript can lead to self-doubt and 'comparisonitis'. This can be crippling to your creativity and productivity. Remember, if someone else has done it, there’s a market for it so you’re probably on the right track.
Another risk is unintentional plagiarism. If you're deeply immersed in another author's world, their unique phrases and ideas might inadvertently find their way into your work. This doesn't mean you're consciously copying, but constant exposure can lead to unintentional similarities.
Striking a Balance: Tips from a Book Coach
So, should you read while you write? As a book coach, my answer is yes – but with some caveats. Here are some tips to strike a balance:
1. Read Outside Your Genre: To avoid unintentional plagiarism and keep your work original, consider reading outside your genre while working on a project. This way, you'll still gain inspiration and learn new techniques without risking too much overlap with your own work. If you do read within your genre, you may wish to keep this to your research phase ahead of knuckling down to write.
2. Set Aside Specific Times for Reading: Instead of interspersing reading throughout your writing time, dedicate specific times for each activity. This separation can help maintain focus on your project when writing and allow you to fully enjoy and learn from other works when reading.
3. Use Reading as a Tool: Instead of just reading for pleasure or inspiration, use it as an active tool for improving your craft. Analyse what works (and what doesn't) in other authors' writings and apply these insights to your own work.
4. Seek Professional Guidance: A book coach can guide you in incorporating reading into your writing process effectively without falling into the common traps mentioned earlier.
In conclusion, reading while writing can be beneficial if done right – it's all about balance and intentionality. As a writer, never underestimate the power of a good book, not just for the pleasure it provides, but also for the lessons it imparts. Happy reading and writing!