This point is vital for at least four reasons: overcoming inefficiencies, capturing ideas, affirming viewpoint, and honing perspective.
1. Overcoming inefficiencies. I know of nothing as powerful as reading to break though writing inefficiencies, such as writer's block, stress, labored drafting, and procrastination. Reading inspires writers to emulate the authors they read. This activity is no different from wanting to participate in a sport after seeing a favorite athlete perform at a high level. We forget our lower level of competency and compete just for the thrill of it.
2. Capturing ideas. Some of the ideas from our reading will be noteworthy for sharing immediately or archiving for future reference. Focused reading on topics related to the writing assignment is especially helpful.
3. Affirming viewpoint. Once we read expert commentary on our topic of interest, one or two of three realizations may occur. First, we may recognize that we need to know more on the topic, so we'll have to read even more. Second, the reading may reinforce our belief about the topic with compelling new evidence. Finally, as has happened to me more often than I can remember, we may reverse our opinion, understanding that we had not thought through the topic thoroughly. This third realization, in turn, may result in one of three decisions: not to write about the topic at all, to write a more balanced piece on the topic, or to write on the topic with an entirely reversed opinion.
4. Honing perspective. The more we read, the more we find about our topic. This discovery forces us to look for a new angle, one that other writers had not considered. Changing perspective is easier than we think, because only we can draw angles from our unique lives, whether we refer to our family experiences, working situation, or other social contexts.