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Seriously, Can Non-Readers Be Writers?

by Greer | Content Lead | Writing Tips | Writer's Life

They walk among us. They eat at our restaurants, they shop at our stores, and their writings live among ours. But who exactly are these non-reader writers, and should they be permitted to call themselves 'writers' at all?


Let's get off our high horse and discuss.



B-But, reading...!


Before we begin, let’s be clear: We Got Story will never not advocate the habit of reading. Genuine enjoyment aside it is arguably the best way to hone your writing skills. In the words of William Falkner:

‘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.’


Before the witch hunt commences, we really should plead our case for reading and all its glory. There is so much to be gained: a wider vocabulary, a broader understanding of storytelling, empathy, and the ability to sense good pacing, characterisation and narration - just to name a mere few of the many benefits. Yet, many ask: If a person is not a reader, does it make them less of a writer? By extension, what possible reasons could these writers have to not be reading?



Some common reasons are:

I never really enjoyed it.

I struggle to find stories that excite me.

I just don’t have time! And with the time I do have, I’d rather write.


And you know what? That’s fine. It’s sometimes hard for ‘natural-born readers’ (FYI: not a thing) to fathom how reading could be tricky to get into, but it happens. If you are a non-reader writer, though, how can you ensure you aren’t losing out on the same worthwhile skills and knowledge your book-loving counterparts are gaining? Here are some practical suggestions non-readers can use to ensure they are not fully missing out on the joys of being told a story:


TV/Movies: A good storyteller must first appreciate a good story. Expose yourself to other people’s stories to grasp vital points of storytelling. Watching stories unfold can do wonders.


Invest in conversation: Even simply hearing a good account of someone’s day is helpful, but if you can find a good story-teller in your life you should invest time with them and adopt some of their traits in your writing.

Learn to double-task: Pairing a reading-based activity around a task you already perform could be your ticket to easing yourself in gently without disrupting your routine. Reading a few pages of a book over lunch or getting through a chapter or two of your audiobook as you clean your home are just a couple of ways you can start.


Download a word app: Our vocabulary is limited to what we have encountered. Sign up for numerous ‘Word of the Day’ posts and bookmark Dictionary.com for a quick definition search so you can use new words quickly.

Branch out into other media: Podcasts, radio, social media posts, comics, music - all great avenues you can ingest story-like content without having to face a page full of words.


Understand why you might have an aversion to reading and make an active choice to try and change this.

Take advantage of e-book samples: This is especially helpful when you are trying to find what sort of storytelling or genre you like best. Low commitment and no costs? Perfect.


Most non-readers - even with the best of intentions - often do not know where to start. From the wide range of material types to the endless content options, narrowing down what you like can be hard. Try to stick to the rule that you must always have one main reading source and one secondary. As you discover what you enjoy, it is helpful to make your reading material different from one another. It also helps when you need a break from the likes of a novel just to relax with a fun article. Bonus Tip: Get your book recommendations from active book lovers. Seek out those who naturally gush over their current reads. As someone who used to work in a library, I can say first-hand you would be surprised how few in the 'book business' actually read - looking at you, my old librarian boss! - so don't be fooled.


‘Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing,' - Harper Lee

The truth is, none of us really have a right to say whether or not non-readers can be writers. Published writers who haven't picked up a book in years (other than their own) do exist and can have the same success the reader-writers do, which may hint at an answer. That said, there are clear and practical benefits to reading and We Got Story will always promote it as a strong compliment to a life of writing.


They walk among us. They eat at our restaurants, they shop at our stores, and their writings live among ours. But who exactly are these non-reader writers, and should they be permitted to call themselves 'writers' at all?


Let's get off our high horse and discuss.



B-But, reading...!


Before we begin, let’s be clear: We Got Story will never not advocate the habit of reading. Genuine enjoyment aside it is arguably the best way to hone your writing skills. In the words of William Falkner:

‘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.’


Before the witch hunt commences, we really should plead our case for reading and all its glory. There is so much to be gained: a wider vocabulary, a broader understanding of storytelling, empathy, and the ability to sense good pacing, characterisation and narration - just to name a mere few of the many benefits. Yet, many ask: If a person is not a reader, does it make them less of a writer? By extension, what possible reasons could these writers have to not be reading?



Some common reasons are:

I never really enjoyed it.

I struggle to find stories that excite me.

I just don’t have time! And with the time I do have, I’d rather write.


And you know what? That’s fine. It’s sometimes hard for ‘natural-born readers’ (FYI: not a thing) to fathom how reading could be tricky to get into, but it happens. If you are a non-reader writer, though, how can you ensure you aren’t losing out on the same worthwhile skills and knowledge your book-loving counterparts are gaining? Here are some practical suggestions non-readers can use to ensure they are not fully missing out on the joys of being told a story:


TV/Movies: A good storyteller must first appreciate a good story. Expose yourself to other people’s stories to grasp vital points of storytelling. Watching stories unfold can do wonders.


Invest in conversation: Even simply hearing a good account of someone’s day is helpful, but if you can find a good story-teller in your life you should invest time with them and adopt some of their traits in your writing.

Learn to double-task: Pairing a reading-based activity around a task you already perform could be your ticket to easing yourself in gently without disrupting your routine. Reading a few pages of a book over lunch or getting through a chapter or two of your audiobook as you clean your home are just a couple of ways you can start.


Download a word app: Our vocabulary is limited to what we have encountered. Sign up for numerous ‘Word of the Day’ posts and bookmark Dictionary.com for a quick definition search so you can use new words quickly.

Branch out into other media: Podcasts, radio, social media posts, comics, music - all great avenues you can ingest story-like content without having to face a page full of words.


Understand why you might have an aversion to reading and make an active choice to try and change this.

Take advantage of e-book samples: This is especially helpful when you are trying to find what sort of storytelling or genre you like best. Low commitment and no costs? Perfect.


Most non-readers - even with the best of intentions - often do not know where to start. From the wide range of material types to the endless content options, narrowing down what you like can be hard. Try to stick to the rule that you must always have one main reading source and one secondary. As you discover what you enjoy, it is helpful to make your reading material different from one another. It also helps when you need a break from the likes of a novel just to relax with a fun article. Bonus Tip: Get your book recommendations from active book lovers. Seek out those who naturally gush over their current reads. As someone who used to work in a library, I can say first-hand you would be surprised how few in the 'book business' actually read - looking at you, my old librarian boss! - so don't be fooled.


‘Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing,' - Harper Lee

The truth is, none of us really have a right to say whether or not non-readers can be writers. Published writers who haven't picked up a book in years (other than their own) do exist and can have the same success the reader-writers do, which may hint at an answer. That said, there are clear and practical benefits to reading and We Got Story will always promote it as a strong compliment to a life of writing.


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