What makes someone a great blog writer? Perhaps it’s their in-depth knowledge of a topic, their pithy turn of phrase or their clear-cut descriptions.
Different people shine in different areas when it comes to content creation. But it is almost guaranteed that the best bloggers all have one thing in common: they are voracious readers.
Reading widely is an assured way to improve our writing skills. And while it’s important for us to read around our industry and specific topics, all subject matter is worthy of our perusal.
You may already be a keen reader or you may find it difficult to dedicate specific time each day. Either way, we can all aim to become "better" readers.
There are a number of techniques we can employ that can not only help us to read more, but also to read in a more focused way.
Why do we read?
Whether we’re reading for work, pleasure or something in between, words on a page tell us something.
Writing on his blog, Mark Manson says: “It’s so obvious that few people bother to think about it. But why do we even read in the first place?
"The answer is the transmission of information. Written language has the magical power of taking an idea from my brain and inserting it into yours, regardless of space or time or whether we like each other or not."
But this information is not limited to the actual topic of a B2B blog or the storyline of a novel. We don’t simply learn facts or the traits of a particular character – we also learn new vocabulary and about grammar and sentence structure.
Reading imparts new ideas and sparks our imagination – and it also provides us with the tools to put our thoughts into written words. Therefore, the more we read, the better our writing will become.
How to read with purpose
Sometimes we want to read for the sheer joy of it - whether it’s the doorstep novel we save for lazy days on the beach or the magazines about a sport we love, which we pore over in the evenings.
But often we’re reading for a purpose: for example, perhaps you want to learn more about a particular issue in your industry. Let’s say there are five must-read books on the topic in question. Reading all of them will help you to write with confidence - broadening your knowledge and ensuring you understand the correct terminology – but how can you achieve this in a reasonable time frame?
Speaking on his podcast Rough Draft, hosted on Rainmaker.fm, Demian Farnworth advocates a method he calls “chapter pacing”. This involves breaking the chapters in a book down into equal time blocks within a specific time frame. So if you set aside two hours and a book contains four chapters, you would spend 30 minutes on each.
Farnworth says: "See, this is a lot like runners who pace themselves during a race. They know to finish a ten mile race in two hours they need to run one mile every 12 minutes. The same principle can apply to reading."
Chapter pacing is essentially skimming and it can be useful when we want to extract the key ideas from a book – or an eBook, longform article or the like. Using this tactic would make it possible for you to complete all five books in as little as a week.
How reading influences our writing
A lot of what we can learn about writing through reading is likely to be absorbed unconsciously – but you can also carry out some conscious tasks too. For example, why not make a note of stylistic techniques that catch your eye; or write down new vocabulary that you come across and see if you can include it in your own writing.
Writing on HubSpot, Allison VanNest also suggests studying "commonly misused words and phrases". She writes: "Is it ‘peek’, ‘peak’, or ‘pique’? Which one is correct: ‘first-come, first-served’ or "first-come, first-serve’? There are a lot of commonly misused words and phrases out there that you should know."
And the more you read, the more all these things will become second nature to you.
Whether you’re already an avid reader or it’s fairly low down on your list of priorities, we can all become more effective readers. And, in the course of achieving this, we can become better writers too.
Being among the best bloggers doesn’t mean we have to draw in an audience of thousands or see our content go viral – but what it does mean is that we should aim to create informative content that helps our audience to solve their problems and fulfil their needs.
Knowing who your readers are is key, as is understanding the workings of your industry – but only reading can provide you with the tools to channel all this knowledge into a valuable piece of content.