At the heart of content creation is the ability to write. Even if you’re producing videos, infographics or podcasts, you must have the ability to tell a story, and a story is ALWAYS about the words we choose. I said ALWAYS. In many ways there is no better way to learn about words, storytelling and content creation than to read.
A great content creator doesn’t just read articles and stories and books. She examines them, pulls them apart to identify great technique, appreciates the turn of a phrase and files away what works for use at some other time. To do all of this requires that we read. Not just social media posts and headlines, but articles, stories and even novels.
There are a number of reasons that content creators need to read voraciously, but the overarching reason is that reading makes you a better writer.
It does this in several ways, including:
It informs you in your job.
This is obvious. To keep up with industry news and the world around you, you have to read. To keep up with the latest trends in your clients’ industries, you need to read. Of course, you could just watch videos or listen to podcasts and never read anything. But that seems awfully limiting; at some point, you’re going to have to break down and read some industry news.
It changes your brain. Really.
New research shows that reading novels actually changes the biology of our brains (in a good way). The researchers founds that people who were reading a novel had heightened connectivity in the brain’s language center. This is a good thing.
It teaches you how to maximize the impact of the words you use.
Reading allows us to learn about words and how they fit together. A good writer pays close attention to words and the effects they create. Here’s something to strive for: Less words, more meaning.
It allows you to see how the experts do it.
Like the professional athlete watching game film to learn about how the greats do it, or the actor in the audience on Broadway seeking to pick up new techniques, exposing ourselves to other writers is a way to see what’s possible, what works and what doesn’t.
It demonstrates the difference between good writing and bad.
About a year ago, I read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (it’s teen lit; my son was reading it for school). It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. Every sentence is filled with meaning. I followed that up by reading a thriller from churn-em-out author David Baldacci. The difference was striking. Granted, Baldacci sells a ton of books, but my back-to-back reading experience made him seem like a hack. He won’t be selling any more books to me.
It teaches you the basics of storytelling.
When it comes to business, storytelling sounds soft. However, there’s science behind it – our brains are hardwired for stories. Stories create a connection between the storyteller and the listener – it’s called neural coupling, and it’s a concept all marketers need to understand. Reading is the surest way to learn about the basics of storytelling – character, plot development and the classic storytelling arc.
Reading exposes us to other styles, voices, and even genres of writing. It exposes us to writing that’s better than our own and helps us improve.
As the old PSAs said, “Reading is Fundamental.”
I’d argue that this is true for all professionals, but it’s especially true for content marketers.
You must constantly consume content, both good and bad. This helps you to understand the difference, and it shows you the way to ensure that the content you produce stays on the right side of that line.