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How Reading Enhances Writing and Unleashes Your Creative Potential

The magical power of reading

My father read Roald Dahl books to me as a child and my all-time favourite was Matilda — the story of a five-year-old girl who reads voraciously and mysteriously develops the power of telekinesis. In my young mind I imagined that by reading enough, people might actually be able to develop superpowers. In hindsight, I don’t think I was entirely wrong.

As Head of English Content at Cicero & Bernay Public Relations, I read as much as I write. I would even go so far as to say that without reading, I can’t write and neither can you. Reading has an almost magical connection with writing, and for copywriters and content developers it is an indispensable habit for five reasons:
1. Know-how: Copywriters are expected to be well informed and capable of writing content about sectors or subjects of which they have no prior knowledge. Neither is possible without reading.

2. Style: By reading, copywriters absorb a wider vocabulary and internalise the rules that govern writing, such as grammar, punctuation and structure. In short, reading refines writing style.

3. Inspiration: One of the only ways to escape a blank page is to read, whether it’s reading more about the subject to gain fresh insights, or veering entirely off topic to find new angles.

4. Variety: Copywriters need to switch between different writing styles in the blink of an eye and sometimes it’s hard to make the jump, but reading can help jolt you into the correct voice.

5. Relief: At some point in your career as a copywriter, you will despair at the thought of writing one single word more. A good article or book is your best friend at this moment.

So, when was the last time you read a book, a short story, an article or even a full social media caption from end to end?
If your answer to that question makes you feel a little sheepish or guilty, then I hope I can help.

How to bring reading back into your life

I love this brutal quote from novelist Stephen King:

“Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

At the same time, I recognise that in our busy lives we can often feel like we don’t have a second to spare on reading. This is why my five tips for picking up a reading habit and sticking with it are very short and simple:

10-minute magic

Dedicate just 10 minutes of your day to any type of reading. It could be at your desk in the morning, on your commute, during lunch or before bed. Any place will do.

Find a favourite

Find a favourite website, newspaper, author or journalist that you can return to confidently and happily every day, and that you believe writes better than you.

Have a book on the go

Pick a book that is manageable and interesting, always keep it handy, and remember that it is not judging you — you can dip in and out of it with no guilt.

Ditch screen time

Blue light wrecks our sleeping patterns so swap screen time for page time to discover new levels of calm that will encourage you to keep up your reading habit.

Be discerning

Once you’ve welcomed reading back into your life, start to consider what it can teach you about how to improve your own work. Ask yourself questions while you read:

    1. Has the author used punctuation or grammar in a way that is new to you?
    2. Has the author employed a new and perfect word that you love?
    3. How has the author structured sentences, paragraphs and even their whole story?
    4. Do you like the author’s writing style? If so, why? If not, why?

The wonderful thing about reading is that with minimal effort, it will improve your life and make you a better writer without you even noticing it. This learning takes place subconsciously, remaining just below the surface until you need it, when it will miraculously spring forth onto the page in your writing.

I’d like to leave you with a quote from American author William Faulkner, who won the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature. I hope his words will motivate you to stop the excuses and start reading:

“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”

Natasha Redcliffe is the English Copywriter of Cicero & Bernay Public Relations. An independent PR agency headquartered in Dubai and offering new-age public relations consultancy to the UAE and across the GCC. | www.cbpr.me