The process of writing can be frustrating, baffling, mysterious and awe inspiring in equal measures. Sometimes in the same writing session. Hell, sometimes in the same sentence!
But if you write regularly – in my opinion ‘regularly’ should be defined as EVERY – SINGLE – FREAKING –DAY btw – then there’s another habit that you need to cultivate to make sure that one day the well doesn’t run dry.
So that you’ve always got something to write about you need to cultivate your reading habit.
Hey! I Read Already! Why Do I Need To Cultivate Anything?
You need to be more specific in your reading habit. It’s not enough to just ‘read.’ You’ve got to get specific with the actual amount that you read.
See, when we write we draw upon things that we’ve read. When you start blogging you’re drawing on a well of material that you’ve built up over time. Maybe months. Maybe years.
But the longer you go on creating blog posts, and podcasts, and videos, and info products, the more of the raw material that you’re drawing upon for your writing.
And if you don’t constantly read enough fresh material, the day will come when the well does run dry. And you find yourself stuck for things to write about. To stop that happening, it’s important that every day you draw from your well that you’re also putting fresh material in there to stock your well.
And as we don’t use everything that we read – some of it we won’t like, or it won’t be relevant to our audience – we have to make sure that we consciously collect more fresh material than we draw out.
So What Sort Of Quantity Should I Be Aiming To Read?
Here’s the rule of thumb that I use. I got this from author and writing teacher Steven Barnes by the way, and the rule of thumb is that you should read between ten and fifty times the amount you write.
And you should calculate that directly into words and make sure you read that amount of new material every single day.
So for example, if you write a thousand words a day then you should be reading between 10,000 words and 50,000 words a day. To put that into context, the average blog posts at most decent blogs runs around 800 to 1000 words. (Tristan’s Note: Both Paul’s posts and my posts are usually longer than this, though.)
So you could combine this with your blog commenting routine – and make sure that some days you visit 10 Blogs and read the posts thoroughly. And only then comment.
Or you can buy books from Amazon and read those. There are about 300 to 350 words to a page of the standard sized books that the publishing houses put out there (and yep I’m anal, and I’ve sat down and counted in different books and used a spreadsheet to chart it). So you’d need to read around 30 to 50 pages of those to hit your minimum.
Wow – I’m A Busy Guy. What If I Don’t Have That Much Time To Read?
Audio is another way to get new material into your well. As well as this being the information age, it’s also the digital age and the multi-media age. So there are plenty of books available in audio format for you to listen to.
If you can squeeze 60 minutes of audio listening into your day – either on your commute, or when you’re at the gym, or walking to the shops, or waiting to pick the kids up from karate (my favourite) – then you’ll clock up around 7500 to 8000 words, depending on the speed of the narrator. And yep, counted them and timed it.
Here’s a quick tip to get some more words in: if you’re listening on an iPod and your files are saved as ‘AudioBooks,’ then you can go to the Settings Menu, scroll down to the Audiobook sub-menu, and in that sub-menu you can set the speed that the Audiobook files play at to Slower, Normal or Faster.
Obviously if you select ‘Faster’ then you’ll squeeze more words into your time.
Is All This Reading/Audio Listening Really Necessary?
If you plan on blogging or content marketing for a long period of time, then absolutely it is.
Not only will it expose you to new ideas for content for your blog, but it will also expose you to new ideas to make your business run better and more profitably. Or you’ll gain a new understanding of an area of your business that perhaps you don’t know that well.
If the book is really well written you can reverse engineer some of the chapters and create exercises that will help your own writing to improve and grow.
You could write a book review and post it to your blog. If the book is good, like really good, then you could add an Amazon affiliate link and you could make a few dollars to help pay the hosting bill.
If the book is relevant to your market you could contact the author and try an arrange an interview for your audience.
There are plenty of ways you can actually leverage this reading for your business. But the most important goal is to remember the beneficial effect it will have on your writing. Especially long term.
Scratch A Writer, Find A Reader
Go read an interview with just about any writer – fiction or non-fiction – and you’ll find there are two things they do.
1) They are compulsive writers
2) They are compulsive readers
Back in the day when I wrote fiction I read LOTS of interviews with writers. And they all talked about how much they read, and what they were currently reading, who their favourite authors were. Without exception.
It’s no different for non-fiction writers. It shouldn’t be for those of us who blog or consider ourselves content marketers. Reading widely not only gives us ideas we can immediately implement or write about, but it adds more raw material to our well of ideas.
Having more raw material in your well allows your subconscious to work in the background – and from time to time it produces a great idea for you which is a fusion of ideas from different sources. And your subconscious will mix them together so they seem fresh and original.
When that happens it’s like hitting paydirt. But it can only happen if you cultivate your reading habit. Remember, you should aim to read between 10 and 50 times what you write.
Do that and the well will never run dry. And you’ll become a better writer in the process.
As you write for a sustained period of time your brain draws upon all the books, courses and influences that it has stored away in its memory banks.
Over time the memory banks get depleted. And one day you’ll run out of things to say – or start rehashing ideas you’ve already published.
To prevent this happening you need to cultivate your reading habit.
A rule of thumb amount for you to read is 10 to 50 times the amount you write. If reading time is scarce due to your work commitments, you can replace some reading time with audio time. Don’t forget the iPods’s ‘Faster’ setting on audiobooks!
The next step is to make a habit of reading…or listening. Here’s a list of books for you to think about getting from Amazon (or your library) if you’ve got nothing to hand:
Tristan’s Note: None of these are affiliate links.
- The Brain Audit by Sean D’Souza
- The Longer Long Tail by Chris Anderson
- Breakthrough Advertizing by Eugene Schwart (pricey, but interesting)
- Accidental Genius by Marc Levy
- Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk
- The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk
- Rework by Jason Fried
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
- Tribes by Seth Godin
- Influence by Robert Cialdini
- The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle
- Talent Is Overrated by Geoff Colvin
And here are a list of blogs that I recommend for further reading:
- Blogging Bookshelf… He he he…
- Perry Marshall
- Smart Passive Income
- Steven Pressfield
- The Launch Coach
- The Sales Lion
- Think Traffic
- Viper Chill
Paul Wolfe is currently rocking the blogosphere over at One Spoon at a Time. Be sure to stop by and leave a comment!
Over to You
- Have you visited Paul’s blog yet?
- How many blogs do you read every day?
- How many pages in books do you read every day/week/month?
- What are YOUR favourite business/writing/content marketing/internetmarketing blogs and books?
- How important do you think it is to read every day?
Tristan’s Note: Be sure to leave a great comment, because a couple days after each new post, I’m going to start highlighting and featuring the best comment of the post. That means more exposure for your comment and more traffic to your blog. Also, my infographic course should be out next week some time :)