Can You Be a Writer if You Don’t Read?

Diane Callahan
12 min readAug 13, 2021

William Faulkner once advised, “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write.”

So, can you be a writer if you don’t read?

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Of course you have to read. What kind of question is that?” Or maybe you clicked on this article because you’re a writer who doesn’t read much, and you’re afraid of having your worst fears confirmed — or you’re looking to validate the absence of reading in your life.

The short answer is “yes and no.” Writing is a form of self-expression that everyone should be encouraged to participate in, and for some writers, reading requires a lot of time and energy, whether it’s brought on by the toll of parenting or mental obstacles like dyslexia. With those limitations, it can feel like you have to choose between either writing or reading.

Even so, being a writer without being a reader is like trying to compose a symphony when you don’t listen to much classical music or opening a restaurant when you don’t know the first thing about business or cooking. It’s talking without listening, wanting your own voice to be heard without putting in the work to learn what others have said and done before you.