I often start the morning reading. In this case, an old familiar favorite. Any writer worth his salt is an active reader. This should be an obvious truth, but whenever I talk to someone who tells me they want to write well, I ask them what they are reading. If they tell me they don’t read much, the conversation about writing is effectively over. I believe they want to be thought of as a writer without the disciplines which are part of being excellent at our craft.

It’s true for not just writers, but for anyone for whom communications is a valuable part of their role. When we meet someone who is particularly articulate, you know that they are exposed to good words. If all they do is read and listen to pop culture, their ideas won’t extend beyond that. Their vocabulary and syntax will be stuck in a groove. The only way to extricate themselves from that limitation is to intentionally find something outside of their typical reading list.

What you see here is a collection of works by writers from the Beat Movement. That includes Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg, and Williams Burroughs, but you’ll find others as well, along with some erudite commentary by the editor.

That era might not look like it would impact, or should impact, the writings of a speechwriter. On the surface level, that’s absolutely correct. However, what it does do is shake me from the norms. Much of it is written with a sense of rhythm unlike much of the self-focused poetry of today. That doesn’t mean it’s all great literature–far from it. There are plenty of dogs here. Still, it challenges me to think about rhythms within my own writing, both in my business or my creative work.

I can easily point to speeches of mine influenced by this unique era, as well as my fiction. I’m a better writer for having read a range of things.

How are you challenging yourself as a reader?