Can you be a writer without being a reader?

The short answer to this question is yes, of course, you can be a writer without doing a lot of reading. But the complete answer is that you will be a better writer if you are also a reader.

Think of it this way: can you be an athlete without practicing? Sure. You can get by (even fairly well), if you’re blessed with talent. But you can never be the athlete you could be unless you eat well, train, stretch, rest, and learn everything you can about the sport you play.

If you are or want to be a writer, reading should be part of your practice schedule. There is great learning that takes place when you read. Your mind is naturally drawn to certain writers, because you like their style, their voice. Reading what they write makes you want to write, and can put you in the mood to start writing before you even finish the reading.

Think about what you enjoy reading most, because it can often be an indicator of what you should probably write. In other words, if you subscribe to In-Fisherman and devour the meaty how-to stuff, that might be a good place for you as a writer. If you subscribe to Sporting Classics and love getting lost in good adventure writing, that could be your place.

A perfect world would have you reading what you love to read, and writing what you would love to read. Follow that path as much as circumstances allow, but as a practical matter, writers who come to depend on paychecks from it have to pay attention to what sells best, too. In order to write well outside your primary areas of interest, reading others who excel in popular categories can be a difference maker.

Reading is fuel for your writing. It’s hard to go to the well of words day after day without pouring a few gallons of fresh treatments in the tank. Find writers that you like. Read what they have to say. Your own work will be better for it.

Can Writers be Made?

The question of whether artists of any kind – and writers in particular – can be ‘made’ through coaching and training, or whether you’re “either born with it or you’re not” has always fascinated me.

I do believe, to a large degree, that each person’s talent level is determined, more or less, by natural forces. But I also believe that there is far more creativity, storytelling ability, writing potential, in most people than they would think, and that it can be brought to the surface. I think a high percentage of people interested in becoming writers can do it, but it takes a weird combination of conscious effort and creating the right surroundings to unleash the words living inside each of us.

Perhaps the key ingredient is desire. If you want to be a writer you will put forth the effort it takes to see if you really have it in you. Combine that with coaching that can tap your voice and you have a powerful combination. Yes, there are technical aspects to the craft, but that’s the easy stuff. The real emphasis should always be on getting at the quality. If you can mine your own creativity, learn to put yourself in a time and place where you work best, it’s amazing what comes from that. It’s the essence of the training I have developed for those who want to be outdoor writers, or who are already outdoor writers but want to be better writers. Helping people discover their voice and bring out the writer they can be is extremely rewarding to me, and that’s why I created the Emerging Outdoor Voices writing course. If you dream about being a writer, or improving your writing, let’s work together, one on one, and make it happen for you.