I have my annual rants, one of which is reading. Not about literacy, not about teaching kids to write, not about donating books to schools and at-risk populations. It's about writers taking the time to read. Aimee Weinstein wrote this post which brought this rant back to the forefront of my mind.
She sweetly explains how reading is fruitful for writers. I tend to take the message further, in a more dramatic tone. I feel that if a writer isn't a voracious reader, he doesn't deserve to write. My mantra is:
You don't have the right to write, if you don't have the need to read.
Reading other works teaches you how to write your own. No, you aren't copying others' material, but you are learning what works and what doesn't. You develop an ability to recognize style, voice, character development and plot twisting. No, you won't all this get this from how-to books.
Look at doctors and teachers. Look at painters and craftsmen. They school up on the trade. They practice the trade. They study the talented in their profession and know the masters. They try to analyze what makes someone great. They attempt to note the tricks of the trade, the habits that do not work and those that do.
What makes writers any different?
To enable your talent, you need to study, practice and read. To shortchange any of the three is to handicap the work product. Why do you think sports figures are so appealling to young athletes? It's all about studying the moves to get your own right.