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If you were on Facebook at all around the New Year, you’ve probably seen the 2016 Reading Challenge found here. Maybe you’re like me, and you already have a long list of books to read. Maybe you’ve finished your list and are desperately searching for something else. Or maybe you’re not much of a reader at all. Regardless, I dare, implore, challenge, threaten, encourage you (whichever word works best on you, dear reader) to give it a try.

Unfortunately, lists hold no power over me. Believe me, I’ve written many a to-do list with the hopes of it encouraging me to get things done. They don’t work on me. It sucks. But in this case, it doesn’t matter! It’s about the journey, not the joy of ticking all those little boxes. (Although, if you are a list person, I suppose that’s a bonus.) There are twelve of them though, if you didn’t notice. So if you are a list person, you’re likely organized and love the idea of a book a month. Or, if you’re like me again, you’ll find that structure a downer, so just pretend I didn’t say anything.

Okay, I’m being serious now. Reading is important whether you’re a writer or a non-writer. If you do an internet search for quotes on reading, you’ll find every reason in the world why you should read books. Personal growth, discovery, catharsis; the chance to get away, learn, relax, and experience something you never have before. Maybe you’re thinking, “I’ve tried reading. I didn’t enjoy it.” It could have just been that author or that genre. And if you find you just don’t have the time, I always suggest audiobooks. Everybody commutes, and why not make that time productive and enjoyable? This is a great way to start.

I also want to talk to the writers. There is no such thing as “I’m too busy writing to read.” I’m trying to imagine any other kind of art form saying that. “I’m too busy taking photographs to look at other pictures! I’m too busy composing to listen to other music!” It’s ridiculous. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing for an artist to show off her new painting only to be told that it looks exactly like a dumbed down version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night? And for her to say, “Who’s Van Gogh? What’s Starry Night?”

My point is that writers should be inspired by other writers, and writers should be knowledgeable of what has come before. But what intrigues me so much about this challenge is the opportunity to expand our horizons. We writers can get so buried in our genre or favorite authors that we don’t know what else is out there, what we could be learning from. So climb out of that pit you’ve dug yourself into and explore. Learn. Grow. Enjoy.

By Rachelle Clifford

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