"Writers—real writers—are formed by their reading. It can be vast, it can be selective. But at some moment, the process freezes. Heroes emerge. And then the writer sees himself/herself as an upholder and extender of the convictions and style of those heroes...
Why do you need to read widely in order to write better? After all, you have something to say and it's like nothing anyone's ever said before. But if you have any perspective at all, you know it's all been said before and you are a pygmy standing on the shoulders of giants and the best way to make yourself worthy is to quote your betters and, when push comes to shove, appropriate their work.
By "appropriation," I don't mean plagiarism. I'm no fan of those famous writers who keep making the news: the ones who write prize-winning books in which—and it's always a mystery to them—another writer's sentences end up, word for word, in the book. I'm talking about style, about the sudden burst of dazzle that makes a reader feel you're not just committing journalism, you're actually writing."
I like that. It's quite true, and I know, from experience, what it's like to stand in a class and find people who would like to write, but don't read. I once had a guy tell me he wanted to write science fiction, but had never read any. Just seen Blade Runner and a few other flicks.
The real question it leaves, however, is just who are you following in the footsteps of? Who are you standing on the shoulders of and crawling through their empty spaces? Have you thought about it? Me, I know some of my influences and where I'm coming from, but I'm going to think about it, have some breakfast, spit out my flem (I'm actually feeling quite better today) and then come back and write about it. You should do the same, even if you're a musician, artist, whatever. You're standing on someones shoulders.