Does Reading Improve Creativity? Here’s What Experts Say!

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Will I become more creative if I read more? And, if reading will make me more creative, what do I have to read? So many of us have asked these questions – either when we’re struggling to come up with new ideas or when we are feeling pleased about the brilliant idea we’ve created.

Generally speaking, reading improves your creativity in two ways. Firstly, you learn from others’ experiences and adapt the learning to your environment to create something unique. Secondly, the act of reading activates and “exercises” different areas and functions in your brain that enable creativity.

This article will look at how reading improves your imagination and creativity and what you should read to improve. 

Can Reading Improve Creativity?

Man reading a book in bed at home

When you think about “creativity” you might perhaps only think of an artist creating something – an artist painting a landscape, a songwriter composing a new song, or a designer designing new clothes. But creativity is a much wider concept than just this one aspect.

You are creating when you are preparing a speech, thinking of new ideas to keep your children busy during the holidays, and even how to lay the table when you are entertaining friends.  When you offer new ideas in the boardroom to make the company more efficient, you are creating something new.

Taking all these aspects into consideration, it becomes clear why we say that reading is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to improve your creativity. Whatever you read – fiction or non-fiction – influences how you think about things.

Ultimately, it entices your brain to provide new ideas for what you want to create – whether it is new artwork or the creation of a new living space in your home.

The more you read, the better you expand your knowledge.

By reading about things you’ve never experienced yourself you open yourself to new ideas and have an understanding of new things. The scope of your creative abilities in all areas of life is broadened.

Relationship between Reading and Creativity

It may not surprise you by now, but there is a direct correlation between reading and creativity!

Here’s a study on the relationship of creative thinking to reading and writing conducted by researchers from the National Taichung University of Education.

The researchers asked 196 university students to fill out a detailed questionnaire that asked them the total number of hours spent on reading and writing among other things. They also asked the students to take a creativity test.

The results of the study indicated that students who spent more time on reading/writing performed significantly better on the creativity test! The research concluded that creativity in a person is directly correlated to the attitude towards reading and writing, and the amount of time spent on reading and writing.

There are three important aspects to keep in mind when you want to develop creativity through reading –

Read Books That Inspire Ideas

How-to books can give you fantastic ideas for things you want to create. You can read books on the specific aspect, whether it is tips on how to improve your writing skills, how to identify a topic to write about, or how to structure your speech, to mention a few.

And the more how-to books you read on the topic, the more varied input you receive, and the more ideas can be stored and fused in your brain to empower you to create something new.

Reading Fiction Subconciously Improve Your Creativity

The relation between reading fiction books and creativity is somewhat different.  When you read fiction, the story expects you to fantasize, think, and use your imagination. You have to do this to grasp and comprehend the reasoning and the concepts put forward in the book.

This “exercise” helps your brain to fantasize and create new ideas also in real life. And just like physical exercise, the more you do, the better the result. By reading more, the more your brain is exercised to come up with new and creative ideas in real life.

Reading Teaches You to Focus

You might wonder what focus has got to do with creativity!

Well, to create anything, you need to be able to focus on that particular thing for hours. Sometimes you may have to persevere consistently with the focus for days, weeks, months, or even years together!

Reading a book forces you to ignore distractions and to focus on what you are reading. You might be surprised to know that reading improves your focus! So by reading, you are not only improving your creativity but also improving your focus so that you can give a shape to your ideas!

Impact of Reading on Imagination

woman reading on a Kindle ebook reader at night on a sofa

Scientists have concluded that reading can indeed help broaden your imagination as reading stimulates the right side of the brain. It can be said that reading literally opens up the mind to new concepts and possibilities. 

Imagination encourages creativity and innovative thinking. Without imagination new inventions will not be possible. You have to have an idea in your head first before you can create something. Without imagination, people wouldn’t be able to create.

Related Article – 21 Benefits of Reading Regularly [Here’s Why We Should All Read!]

Even Albert Einstein has believed that imagination is more important than knowledge. He said that if you have a great imagination, you also can create and discover more than the average not so imaginative person. 

When you read fiction, you find yourself in a  different place and time – a whole different world. You temporarily escape reality based on the words you’ve read.

The more frequently you practice your “escaping from the real world” by reading, the more you improve your ability to visualize or imagine new perspectives. This makes you more creative in the long run.

What Type of Books Should You Read to Improve Creativity?

Generally speaking, reading fiction especially fantasy or science fiction or other genres that provide new ideas is good for creativity. Reading, in general, contributes to your creativity consciously or subconsciously!

We’ve looked at what one of the world’s famous entrepreneurs, Elon Musk, is reading.  He reads a variety of types of books and topics and has said that it is through reading that his brain is capable to come up with creative ideas.

He has admitted to reading up to 10 hours of science fiction per day. His reading also covers other subjects such as

  • fiction,
  • philosophy,
  • religion,
  • programming,
  • biographies of scientists,
  • physics,
  • engineering,
  • product design,
  • business,
  • technology and
  • energy.

So, non-fiction books, as well as fiction books, especially fantasy, science-fiction, or any other genres that are full of new concepts can stimulate your imagination.

Can Reading Kill Creativity?

Reading does not kill creativity. There is no scientific evidence to support that reading can kill creativity. However, reading the wrong types of books or forcing students or kids to read can drive them away from reading altogether affecting creativity in the long run!

This can happen in different ways. It can for instance be the parents not helping their children to love books or a school system where “compulsory” books in many cases put learners off from reading instead of making them readers. 

And if you’re not a “normal” reader, all the possibilities of enhancing your creative skills are passing you by. So, it is actually the lack of reading that kills creativity.

About the Author

Akansha is a former business journalist and a seasoned communications professional. She is the founder of TheBookBuff, an avid storyteller, and a lifelong biblophile! Check out her profile page to know more about Akansha.

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