Guest post by Angela Baker
For some reason, we distinguish “professional” writers from authors. They seem to be categorized as those who earn money writing anything other than books – blog posts, website content, business reports, and plans, etc., grants, journal and news articles and editorials, marketing content and ads (including video scripts), and more.
What most “professionals” do not write are novels. So, it almost seems contra-indicative to claim that professional writers can actually boost their talents and skills by reading fiction – a genre that seems to have nothing to do with their careers.
Yet, if you bear with this writer, you will see 7 powerful benefits for professional writers who read fiction.
1. Reading Improves Focus
If you can get “into” a good novel, you stay focused on the story, the characters, even the setting. In fact, some novels are so captivating that readers remain captivated for long periods of time, even to the point of pulling “all-nighters.” There is some “brain training” going on here.
When your brain practices this type of focus, you may find that when you face deadlines and need maximum focus, it may come a bit easier. Harvard Business Review published an article speaking to the fact that the brain can be trained to ignore distractions with practice.
2. Reading Fiction Gives the Brain a “Rest”
Professional writers tend to do the same type of writing all the time. Copywriters produce content for websites, blog posts, and other marketing avenues; freelance academic researchers, writers, and editors for RushEssay produce high quality essays, academic papers, and such for students in need; business writers craft reports, proposals, memos, handbooks, and letters. It is easy to experience burnout when only one type of research, reading, and writing consumes a person’s day. Picking up a novel and reading for pleasure can reduce the stress and burnout of work-related writing tasks.
3. Reading Fiction Can Improve Vocabulary
The vocabulary of fiction writing can be quite different from that of professional writing. Those who craft the same type of writing every day tend to use the same range of vocabulary. When they read a lot of fiction, however, they come across vocabulary that they may well know but have “forgotten.” There may be ways that they can use these forgotten words in their own professional writing, setting what they produce apart from that of other similar writers, perhaps competitors.
4. Reading Fiction Will Expose Professionals to Different Writing Styles
While each type of professional writing tends to have a certain style, fiction writing does not. There are huge differences among the styles of Spielberg, Grisham, Patterson, Kidd, and others. As professional writers read a variety of styles, they may see how they can incorporate some of those stylistic forms into their writing, to provide a different “voice.” In fact, it may help a professional writer develop his own improved unique style. There is plenty of research that speaks to the fact that the more people read, the better writers they become.
5. Reading Fiction Provides Insights Into Human Experiences, Conflicts, and Psychology
For professional writers whose work may involve persuasion and/or developing relationships with stakeholders, potential customers, funders/investors, etc., the interactions among fictional characters can provide insights into the human psyche. These include behavioral motivations, cultural values and principles, conflicts, thought processes, and more.
6. Reading Fiction Promotes Cognitive Agility and Acuity
Let’s define these terms.
In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, author Christine Seifert reviews the results of a study that incorporated the reading of fiction by small groups in a corporate setting. The readers then discussed what they had read among themselves. Conclusions of this study pointed to enhancing the brain’s ability to develop more cognitive ability and acuity – picking up informational cues when presented with a story and resisting the need to be so rigid in their thinking. They come to understand that there are very few absolutes and become more creative and thoughtful, as well as more accepting of a variety of viewpoints. According to the study, employee productivity, teamwork, and collaboration improved.
Professional writers need these cognitive skills, as they look at their audiences and the variety within them. It allows them to relate to those with whom they may not share the same values and principles.
7. Reading Fiction Enhances Storytelling Ability
Fictional authors weave stories. And good fictional authors understand their audiences and tell stories that resonate. Their loyal readers always come back for more, each time there is a new short story or novel published.
Professional writers, especially content marketers, would love to garner this type of loyalty for their brands. And storytelling has become a significant part of content marketing for that reason. It builds brand awareness and evokes human emotions. The overall purpose of storytelling is to make a stronger connection with a company’s audience and to build loyalty, not unlike what fiction authors do. And it is definitely an art. Reading fiction allows a cognitive absorption of that art.
In academic writing, an author needs to engage and compel their reading audience. Much of this is done via a title and then the introduction. One of the most compelling methods to begin an essay or paper is with an anecdote – a short story that relates to the topic of the piece.
Reading fiction enhances a professional writer’s understanding of good storytelling, and he can take that understanding into his work.
Professional writers are focused on a specific niche of writing. And it is often quite narrow. Business writers do not often venture out into content marketing; content marketers do not venture into resume writing; grant writers do not consider creative product description work.
There are also some things that all of these writers have in common:
Consider, as an example, the work of a grant writer – often considered a very “dry” type of writing. Yet, that grant writer has an audience to persuade. In addition to providing research data to “prove” his case, he also has to appeal to the emotions of his audience. This may best be presented through real-life stories, carefully constructed to put a “human face” on the need for funding to achieve certain goals. At the same time, this grant writer can experience burnout. Taking mental breaks to read fiction, allows the brain to “rest.”
These seven benefits of fiction reading for professional writers cannot be denied. All professional writers should take a look at their reading habits and incorporate preferred fiction genres into them.
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