Reading is an ocean. Writing is a boat.

You probably have read – and will continue to read – more pages than you write.

Of this vast array of books that stretches across the horizon of your life, some of the titles have proved as powerful as a tsunami while others, like calm waters, gave no reason to even take notice. Your writing traverses all of these books that you’ve explored through the years.

Reading is an ocean. Writing is a boat.

Boats always pick up something from the waters they traverse – barnacles, sea water that’s splashed aboard, fish caught in nets cast over the side. Likewise, your writing has collected much from the many books you’ve read – ways to ramp up suspense, plot patterns, techniques to make your descriptions more vivid.

One’s writing isn’t merely the culmination of all the author has read, of course. Experience and imagination also play major roles. Still, there’s no doubt that other authors’ techniques stick to your repertoire, that their style has washed over you, that their themes and characters have been hauled aboard your own and dumped into the barrels of your manuscripts.

If you are to be a great writer, you must be a great sailor of literature.

A first-rate sailor spends time a lot of time on the water where he’s learned how to tie a cleat hitch and repair a snapped line. From experience, he comes to intuitively know from which direction the wind is blowing and how it will shift.

Likewise, an excellent writer spends time navigating through books, where he’s learned how to create a character arc and tighten an unwieldy sentence. From the countless words he’s processed, he naturally knows when a point of view isn’t working and how to revise scenes so a new perspective will tell the tale with heightened drama.

Will you settle for being a mediocre writer by only dreaming of what the vast sea holds? Or will you set sail through the greatest books of your favorite genre and of all time to seek the glory that awaits on a distant shore?

We’ll see you on the water.