Building products, writing, and painting are not mental excercises, they are physical ones.
Reading to improve is like watching someone else workout – it does almost nothing for you.
To run better, run.
To paint better, paint.
To write better, write.
To build better, build.
I certainly agree that practice is the core of all increase in skill. However, I've found that the differentiation factor of my skills comes from being someone who reads, who looks for better ways to run. From being someone who constantly reflects on the practice that occurs. This is something that's well supported by research (the notion of deliberate practice).
Deliberate Practice: http://projects.ict.usc.edu/itw/gel/EricssonDeliberatePracti...
However, I do agree that it is necessary to take a step back and learn from others along the way.
I'm often astonished, when I read old interviews with great writers in The Paris Review's Writers at Work series, just how well-read the masters are. They've read everything. Soaked it all in. And writers borrow, copy, steal, adapt, all the time.
Of course, I agree with the heart of the matter, that just doing the thing is most important, but I do wonder if it is sufficient.
> Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith.