Reading and writing – hand in hand, refilling the well
One of the major things that I’ve discovered is that if I don’t read, I can’t write. So it’s absolutely mystifying when I speak to writers who tell me they don’t have time to read any more. Or even more astounding – those that don’t read ‘at all’. And while I respect that there are probably good reasons for it, I can’t get my head around the idea that writers aren’t reading – beyond the obvious stuff on social networking and blogs and newspapers and more.
Reading when you don’t have time
There’s no such thing as ‘no time’, unless, from the moment you open your eyes, until you fall into bed in a heap, you’re on the go. Many writers that I speak to tell me that they’re picking up their kids, and then talk about the half an hour they waited for their children – or the ten minutes in the queue at the post office. I read! I’ve got an app on my phone, and if I know I’m going to be somewhere with any wait, I grab one of my tablets. I’m lucky – I have a Kindle Fire and an iPad, plus the Kindle app on my phone (and Audible too!) so I’ve always got something to read (and something to amuse my kids if we’re travelling), but if you can’t do that for any reason, there’s nothing wrong with taking a paperback with you – it’s the act of reading itself that’s important.
Why? Because directing your imagination and actually experiencing the events that someone else has created is the single best way to formulate and understand how to do something similar yourself.
Really dissecting a piece, to see why it works, and why it might not is good for your critical skills and most importantly – it gives you a chance to experience and enjoy something else.
Reading fiction is good for you – not only does it lower stress levels (yes, I know; it doesn’t always feel like that when we’re rooting for a character!) but it teaches you to cope with and explore ambiguity – at least according to a study by two researchers from Toronto. Literary short stories in this case, but I’m sure it extends to reading in general.
Anecdotally, but those that read more in class on my degree in Creative Writing seemed to cope better with the workload and create the best stories, and, at the end of the day, got the best grades. I’m not sure what would have happened if we’d have said that we don’t read on the course, but we were encouraged to devour books whole, and so we did. I held down a full time job as a copywriter, parented two children, ran a house AND did a 40 hour a week degree, and still fit in reading time – it might not have been much (in the bath, or in bed in the morning before everyone else got up) but it was doable.
Never have, never will? Seriously?
I totally get the idea that we’ve got to make sure that our time is allotted properly, but aside from considering reading as a downtime pursuit, you can also make it double duty – research your genre, relax your mind, learn and find things that resonate with your voice. It doesn’t have to be a chore – reading is fun. And yet, I still encounter writers, all the time, who say that it’s not something they’re interested in even doing.
At the end of the day though, if all you’re doing is writing, and not refilling your writerly well (however you do it) you’re going to struggle – but I do think that anyone that isn’t reading isn’t doing themselves any favors. And as writers, we have to make sure we’re preserving and protecting everything we can, and giving ourselves every tool and opportunity to be a success.
And if you really can’t face reading – Audible is about the same cost as a couple of eBooks a month and you can listen to that anywhere, with the right equipment. Most phones support it now, as do all of the major tablets/computers.
D Kai Wilson-Viola is a long-time blogger, writer, parent, photographer, graduate, mental health advocate and cat lover. When not writing, editing or holding down a day job in Public Relations, she can be found offering advice on her groups and sites, reading or chasing her teen and tween and two cats. You can read all about her adventures in publishing and writing at Author Interrupted or Language and Print.
Image credit – Mourgefile - http://mrg.bz/Pz2WNc