It has been said many different times by many different people that reading is the most vital thing for a writer. Read, read, read! Read all of the things all of the time. And, of course, there are many that refuse out of fear that what they read (or hear, thanks to the advent of audiobooks) will infect their writing and change their ‘voice’.
Let me tell you something: THIS IS A GOOD THING!
Your ‘voice’ does not change, it evolves. Much like we do not speak as we did when we were twelve, our writing grows and adapts with us as we mature and learn. But, that can’t happen if we don’t read. I used to be in the camp of ‘can’t read while I write’ and made all manner of excuses why I had no time to read or couldn’t read certain things or whatever.
It is all a lie.
Every book I have ever read influences my work. I pull pieces and ideas, vernacular and sentence structure from all that I see and hear when I read (or listen to) books. No, I cannot yet type while listening to an audiobook but I can certainly walk and listen which is just as important as drinking water. I don’t have time for a lot of things but I still make time for reading because it is helpful to my job. You wouldn’t walk into a lab and say that you can’t study new chemical equations because it might affect how you create your own chemical equations. That’s just silly. It is the same with writing and books.
Read. Read silly romances or thought provoking thrillers. Read high fantasy battles or adventures through space and time or even just a little book of poems. The point is to read. Above all, read in the genre that you write in; learn what other authors are doing right and emulate them because they’ve already been there and done that and have the success to show for it.
Do not fear books; embrace them. Summer is here when many feel that they have more time to relax and enjoy life. So enjoy a good book or two while you have that time. You’ll thank yourself for it later. Promise.