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How Reading Fiction Boosts Creativity

Over the last few months, I’ve been fortunate to guest post on some really cool blogs, including Michael Hyatt and Jane Friedman.

Last Thursday, I was honored to write a guest post for Jeff Goins. Jeff is also a writer in Nashville, and he has one of the best writing blogs on the planet. He cranks out great stuff everyday, so I highly recommend following him on his blog or Twitter.

My post on was about how reading fiction is a must for writers. I’ll put an opening excerpt for you to read here, but please check out the rest of the post on his blog if you’re interested.

I used to be a nonfiction snob. You might know the type.

A typical book conversation might go something like this:

Person: “Hey Robert. What are you reading these days?

Me: “Only the hottest nonfiction book on the market. It’s called Seven Ways to Overcome Fear By Following These 11 Tips In One Easy-To-Learn Process. You’re reading that too, right?”

Person: “Uh, no. Not familiar with that one. I’m reading To Kill A Mockingbird.

Me: “Yeah, I don’t read much fiction. I’d rather read about real life.”

Person: “Oh, To Kill A Mockingbird is pretty realistic. You can actually learn a lot from it.”

Me: “Yeah, nice story. But that’s all it is — a story. I need something more practical. I like to read books I can learn and grow from.”

Person: “Hey, is that a parrot?” [Quickly walks away.]

Wow. Was I ever an idiot. Some of you might be nonfiction snobs like I used to be. Apparently, it’s a trend.

The sad part? I’m a writer. Meaning I write for a living. Meaning I’m paid to be creative. How in the world could I justify not reading fiction?

Working in a creative field and only reading nonfiction is like training for a marathon by doing pushups and curls. You’ve got to work out the creative part of your brain.

It’s not that nonfiction can’t do that; it’s just that fiction does a better job of it. Here’s why:

Go read the rest of the post at Jeff’s blog!

(Image: shutterhacks/Flickr)

16 Comments Post a comment
  1. Matt #

    I’ve noticed a lot of nonfiction snobs lately, too. Now I know where to point them when they tell me reading fiction is useless. Great post.


    March 5, 2012
  2. I agree Robert, Fiction opens up the mind and takes you places you wouldn’t ordinarily go, as a writers, we need to find these places one way or another, reading as much as I can does it for me.


    March 5, 2012
  3. Excellent article. Reading fiction expands our own creativity, and challenges our thinking process. I will add though that I have met some fiction snobs as well. Reading a biography would be as far out of their comfort zone as reading “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” would be for a nonfiction snob. People do have different bends in their reading interest. Going outside of that comfort zone is what challenges and expands us – especially as writers.


    March 5, 2012
    • Agreed. A balance is very important. I’m looking forward to getting back into nonfiction when this project ends.


      March 5, 2012
  4. I feel like I neglect non-fiction. Maybe that makes me a fiction snob?! I have a few non-fiction books that I keep putting off reading, maybe I should make a stronger effort.


    March 5, 2012
    • Fiction snob! But since I haven’t read a NF book in nearly two years, maybe I am too. Check out that post about nonfiction I made a couple of weeks ago. Might find something in there you want to read.


      March 5, 2012
  5. Thanks, Robert! It was great to have you. I am, admittedly, a recovering nonfiction snob.


    March 6, 2012
    • Thanks Jeff. Thanks for the opportunity. Love your blog.


      March 6, 2012
  6. Bobbo #

    Thanks for the interesting artices. I’ve just started reading White Teeth – the main character goes to St Jude school (st of hopeless causes) and lives in an area of London called Lambert – hints of another famous novel released 2 years later maybe?


    March 9, 2012
    • Shem the Penman #

      I liked White Teeth a lot. Despite my qualms about her later work, I thought Zadie Smith showed real comic genius in her debut.


      March 9, 2012
      • Bobbo #

        I always thought most novels were based on truth like Philip Roth writing about an odd jewish family, im sure its a lot of biography, and even sci fi is mostly metaphors for real stuff.


        March 9, 2012
  7. What I learn? How to live , and how live better. My teachers? Tolstoy, D H Lawrence,
    Shakespeare, Annie Proulx, Iris Murdoch, RAymond Carver, Julian Barnes, Doris Lessing, Marge Piercy, Virginia Woolf, Marcus Aurelius (although not fiction, philosophy) William Golding. More William Golding. Fiction allows the reader ‘ to leap off the wall of self’ – David Foster Wallace.
    To develop as people we need to remove the ‘ self’ from the story sometimes, and fiction does this. You become the protagonist, you have empathy for the victim, you travel to cultures alien and fantastic. And everyone knows that all fiction tells real stories. Thats why we say truth is stranger than fiction. What the novelist can imagine has to be borne from a human imagination, no torture exists in fiction that has not been trumped by man himself somewhere. That is the power of storytelling. restructuring the actual in order to arrive at and explore dangerous, exciting ideas and conditons of being human. Enough said


    January 30, 2013

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