The American inventor, Thomas Edison, is probably well known for his invention of the first commercially viable light bulb. Another common knowledge about him is that it took him about a thousand failed patent experiments to invent the light bulb successfully. This is as basic as most people know about the inventor.

Growing up as a child, Thomas had quite several challenges that made him stay away from school. He was home-schooled by his mother and subsequently self-educated himself by reading extensively on various and wide range of disciplines. In a couple of years to come, the ideas that gave birth to his invention would come from his reading and studies.

A lot of people nowadays want to become the best thing that has happened to writing after James Joyce but are unwilling to bear the sacrifice it requires. Being a reader is as equally important as identifying as a writer. To become a good writer, you have to read well and read always. Virginia Woolf had a massive library at her disposal while growing up as a child. It should not come as a surprise then that she turned out to be one of the best writers of the 20th century.

No writer ever turned out great without been an avid reader, and most of these writers are products of what they read. One of Nigeria’s finest poets, Christopher Okigbo, had read the French poet, Stéphane Mallarmé, so much that Okigbo’s poetry took the obscurantist form of Mallarmé’s. Read and read until writing becomes an effortless means of expression for you, but before then, here are some essential tips you need to know on how to become a great reader.

Not every reader will become a writer

This is a truth that a lot of aspiring writers do not want to hear – we all cannot become writers and not all writings are fully formed as quickly as you might expect. Whenever you read, therefore, you should do so with intent to grow your wealth of knowledge and expand your mind. It might take a longer time than you imagine to become the writer you want to be, but do not stop reading. Millard Kaufman was 90 years old when he published his first novel,  Bowl of Cherries.

Read the right stuff

Be intentional and strategic about your reading because what and who you read will pile up into a reservoir of knowledge, and they will influence what you will write, eventually. Desist from reading everything that comes your way. While this might be a bit difficult to adhere to, you should look out for authors you aspire to become and whose works you admire. Read them religiously. The aim is not to become like them, but to be influenced by them. Create a reading timetable for yourself; read around selected topics, themes, periods and authors. This strategic reading habit will help you carve a voice of your own when and if you begin to write.

Develop yourself

Language is more than a medium of communication; it is a signifier of culture, a mirror of thoughts and life. Most 17th century writers were able to speak at least two languages, from Latin to Greek, French and English. Their works were rich because their thought processes were formed from different linguistic roots. Every language is a corpus of the historical and cultural nuances of its speakers. Whatever language you speak, read and might decide to write with, master it very well. Understand the nitty-gritty of the language. In the books that you read, make sure you pay attention to how the authors make use of grammar, syntax and figurative expressions.

As a reader and writer, understanding two or more languages gives you access to alternative universes of thoughts. You would never be restricted by the limitations of thought and expression. If you find it difficult to form a thought or an idea in one language, you can easily seek refuge in another.

Read without ceasing

We cannot overemphasize the importance of reading. Keep reading to increase your wealth of knowledge and flourish your universe of imagination. When the time is right for you to write, there will be an unlimited reservoir of knowledge at your disposal. No one grows out of reading, so keep at it because there is no end to reading.

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