What do you think about, focus on, and look for when you’re reading? I think when most of us read, we seek out entertainment and information. We want to fall into a story and let it take us away from our personal dramas for a little while, and we seek to improve ourselves by expanding what we understand about the world.
When readers approach a book, they should identify why they are reading. What is the purpose that brings them to the page? I know, of course, that many of us grab a book at the library and automatically dig into it like it’s chocolate cake because we have an inkling of what to expect. But if we take a moment to identify our needs first, our reading process can be more targeted. We can develop a writer’s mindset while we read.
As a writer, we tend to read differently than other people. Whereas many people takeaway a love of language, an appreciation of the depth of narrative, and an acknowledgment of the writer’s talents, we look for the how, what, and why of what went into the writing.
While we are reading as writers, we tend to ask more questions of the piece like:
When we read as a writer, we look not only at how entertaining the narrative is or how instructional the piece, but we look at how did the writer go through the process of coming up with an idea, researching the idea, then writing, editing, and revising the piece until it landed in the publishable form.
When we read as a writer, we have the get into the mindset of being the reader and the writer simultaneously. As the reader, we want to be entertained or guided. We want the book to make us better people, better informed professionals, or happily entertained readers. We know how it feels to have a book take over our thoughts so that when we aren’t reading, we’re thinking about the book. It’s a bit like being in love.
As a writer, the complications of writing a book become clearer. We have to think about how to take an idea from its infancy into a fully-developed piece. We have to think about the language and the wording we use to make sure that everything not just makes sense but connects with readers so that people get the most out of the reading that they can.
When I read like a writer, I ask how the writer constructs a book-length piece, but I also ask about what and why:
As we read with the writer’s mindset, we are digging into the writing: how it was constructed, what the writer meant by information they included, and why the book had a particular effect.
What a writer does when they read is to analyze the piece while reading. We have to think not just in the way that a reader does but think about what was this like for the writer to create this piece. By getting into that mindset, every book we read becomes a roadmap for writing. Every book is a manual and if we can pull it apart then we can get a peek behind the curtain and understand the writer’s life a little better.
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