I could barely contain my excitement. A whole day dedicated to reading? It’s like a dream come true! When I learned that today is “Drop Everything And Read Day,” I gotta admit I felt a bit giddy. As a writer by day and mom/wife/daughter/sister by night, my love affair with the written word has matured from an act of pure pleasure to an act of self-preservation and even, dare I say, necessity. When I first started my copywriting business, I worked 50+ hours per week, with the other hours dedicated to my (then) newborn daughter, husband, and other family/friends. With my business and my daughter in the infancy stage, the thought of spending any time of “me” activities seemed too selfish for words. I felt guilty enough as it was, spending all that time at the office (even if it was an office in my home), so what right did I have to spend even MORE time away from my family doing selfish acts – gasp – for my own pleasure! So for a long time, I put my love affair aside and stopped reading.
It was a dark period in my life. (And I say that with only a hint of tongue-in-cheek humor.)
And then I read somewhere, I believe it was in a newsletter by Dan Kennedy, the so-called “Granddaddy of Copywriting,” that reading was not only acceptable but necessary for those involved in the act of writing their own marketing materials, and it was as if the floodgates opened. He said that reading even fiction-based novels can help writers hone our craft, as in the process of reading great works we’re subconsciously picking up on what works to gain – and keep – a reader’s attention. I can’t tell you how many times I read a well-written story and took some of the cues to use in my own writing endeavors. Like the story – forgive me, I can’t remember which one – that began by saying something like, “I always knew I would die young, but I never thought it would happen quite like this.” I mean, seriously, how can you not continue reading after such a powerful opening line? How can you not wonder what happens to this character? And, translated to your own writing, can mean that instead of writing a promotional email that eases readers into your offer, maybe you start off strong with a statement or question that shocks, intrigues, or excites them. For example, perhaps in the promotion of a business-success workshop, the marketer might begin with something like:
“I always wanted to become a millionaire, but I had no idea I’d get there before the age of 30.”
Or something to that effect. Because if you’re talking to an audience of people who aspire to be millionaires, and you’ve not only achieved that goal but can teach others how to do the same, starting with a simple yet powerful statement grabs your readers’ attention and entices them to keep reading.
Once I realized how helpful the simple act of reading great writing can be on my own writing endeavors, and had “permission” to read not just for business but for fun, I dusted off my Kindle and began to devour everything I could get my hands on. Classic stories by good ol’ Mark Twain. Guilty pleasures like the Twilight series (yep, the Young Adult series featuring vampires and werewolves) and, more recently, the Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl. Anything written by James Patterson or Alex Kava (who just happens to be a fellow Nebraska native but who also writes damn good novels). And really, anything that has a good storyline that I can sink my teeth into.
Getting lost in a good book not only helps me hone my writing but also gives me just enough “me” time to keep my sanity in times of pressing deadlines or otherwise crazy days. And if I keep telling myself that reading is not only fun but functional, perhaps I can keep the wolves of guilt away.
Now, I’m off to lose myself in a period novel called “The Crown” that I just downloaded onto my Kindle. What’s on your reading list?