In the 1950s a man named B.F. Skinner came up with an idea for how children acquire language, a theory that as we learn to copy the adults around us, we create a template for language in our mind and in a sense imitate the language floating around our environment. He called this theory ‘Imitation theory’ and while it is limited in its explanation for how we acquire all language, it can also be applied to creative writing.
A writer must have a similar template in their mind as to how language can be used effectively in a creative sense – this is why we study literature at school, to better help us understand that language has far more capacity beyond simply communicating ideas necessary, beyond a survival aid, language can be an art form and this is what all great writers will understand.
Ultimately books contain the foundations of our language while also holding the blueprints for an infinite realm of creativity in that language. This is why reading books is the number 1 best way to become a better writer, even if you don’t write consistently, you’ll find that when you do you understand what good and bad writing entails – you’ll have an expectation that your writing should meet the standard of your favourite books.
When we read a book we are influenced by every word choice, phrasing, metaphor etc to create a sort of template for what writing is. This is why it’s important to read well written books so we understand subconsciously how to write in such a way. Reading a book that challenges you is very important, even if you struggle, keep at it and eventually it’ll all start making sense and you’ll begin to write in the same way the book is written. Reading a variety of books will help you to collect many different influences and apply them all to your work.
This isn’t copying other’s work in any sense. A person can only be original by being a collaboration of everything they’ve ever experienced; your voice as a writer will be an amalgamation of everything you’ve ever seen or heard so experience as much as humanly possible. Try to explore outside of your preferred genre too, all the best writers will borrow from many different genres and create something new altogether.
If you want to make reading a consistent habit in your life there are a few simple tips that may help:
1) Allocate a specific time in the day to read, a time you know you won’t be distracted or interrupted. This could be on the bus to work or just before you go to bed. Sticking to a certain time In the day will not only allow you to make sure you have time to read but your brain will soon come to expect that you’ll read at those times of day and therefore encourage you to act on it, in the same way it tells you to have 3 meals at specific times of the day.
2) If you’re not used to reading heavily, find a relatively easy book to read and start there. Even if you find it so simple it’s almost patronising at least you’ll set off on that momentum required to pick up increasingly more difficult books every day. It’ll be a lot easier to convince yourself to read as well if you know it’s going to be easy.
3) Act on your impulses. You’ll find you get an impulse to read throughout the day, in the back of your mind you’ll be telling yourself that this is a habit you want to keep up. There’s a great book titled ‘The 5 second rule’ by Mel Robbins all about following our impulses to perform desired habits – essentially if we don’t after 5 seconds the impulse dies out and we’ve missed our mark.
4) Be consistent. Set yourself a target to read every day for just 30 days. After a month the habit will be an automatic routine in your day, you won’t even need to think about doing it. Start off small however and build up otherwise you may get discouraged if you beat yourself up for not reading a whole chapter in a day. Begin the 30 days with a goal of just a page a day and when that gets too easy just keep increasing the reading amount.
If you found any of these tips or ideas helpful let me know in the comments and if you have any further questions about my blog or submitting your own writing contact me on my email: firstname.lastname@example.org