“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time
(or the tools) to write.”
All writers have heard that quote or one like it. And we all know it’s true. But balancing the two is like herding cats. You can try, but you end up getting scratched.
I know I tried. I’d begin writing and I get so involved with the story that I’d forget to read and I’d write and write until my creativity dried up and blew away. Then, I’d read until my eyes bled. I tried thrillers, devouring them (which helped me learn to craft tight plots) until I couldn’t stand another gun shot. So I focused on the classics (where I saw the power of understatement, metaphor, etc.) until I was ready to strangle yet another indecisive heroine.
The only good thing was that when I finished the reading cycle, my creativity was recharged until I drained it dry. The cycle was not a good thing. Maybe a little OCD as well, but we won’t go there.
I had to find a better, a more sane way of balancing my writer/reader issues. A way that would sustain me as a reader and a writer. I tried lots of things. They all failed.
I’d like to say that I analyzed the situation and came up with a solution. But I found it by accident—I sort of fell into it. And it wasn’t until I realized the writing-reading was working, that I even wondered what I was doing differently.
It started years ago, when a health problem made me commit to running, which I hate with a passion. So I bribed myself to run a treadmill. While I ran I could read “fun” books, thrillers, mysteries, and YA, but I could only read them when I ran.
Then this fall, I decided that I’d devote all before-bedtime-reading to a classic or literary/upmarket novel. To make it even more fun, I asked/begged a writer friend to read the “classics” too—so we can exchange emails about what we’ve read. “Hey, did you finish chapter four last night? Did you notice how the author changed the mood, foreshadowing the end of the chapter?”
The one final change I made was that any other free time belonged to writing. Even if a novel was calling out, “Read me, read me!”
How did it work out? I’m reading more than I have in years. And writing…I finished a first draft in three months. (I’ve never written a novel in less than six months before.)
So if you find yourself alternating between bleeding eyes and shriveled creativity, you could try what I’ve done. Either that, or give the Muse a call. I’ve tried, but I’m pretty sure she’s blocked my number.
Thanks so much for this lovely post, Connie. I've been struggling with maintaining a sane balance, and now you made it sound so easy. :-)
So, lovely people, how do you strike a balance between reading and writing? Do you suck at it like me?