How does reading help your writing? Here’s an answer from Mortimer J. Adler’s classic How to Read a Book (discussed at more length in an earlier post today, May 23, 2007, on One-Minute Book Reviews):
“Writing and reading are reciprocal, as are teaching and being taught …
“Nevertheless, although the rules are reciprocal, they are not followed in the same way. The reader tries to uncover the skeleton that the book conceals. The author starts with the skeleton and tries to cover it up. His aim is to conceal the skeleton artistically or, in other words, to put flesh on the bare bones. If he is a good writer, he does not bury a puny skeleton under a mass of fat; on the other hand, neither should the flesh be too thin, so that the bones show through. If the flesh is thick enough, and if flabbiness is avoided, the joints will be detectible and the motion of parts will reveal articulation.”
From How to Read a Book: Revised and Updated Edition (Simon & Schuster, 1972). By Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren.
Comment by Janice Harayda:
All those of us who teach writing urge our students not just to write but to read — ideally, every day. This quote explains, as pithily as I’ve seen it explained, why both are important. One of the best ways to improve your writing if you can’t write every day is to read every day.
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(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.