April 2, 2015

Read Like It's Your Job

One of the main pieces of advice that we receive as writers is Read More Books!

Read widely in your genre. Read books on writing craft. Read books outside of your genre. Read diverse authors. READ ALL THE BOOKS!

I love to read. It's one of my favorite things to do, which is probably why it feels like a luxury that I allow myself to indulge in only after all the hard things are done. After the house is perfect and the day job is finished and church duties are completed and the kids are clean and fed and content.  

Reading is never a priority--it's my reward for completing obligations.

Which is why it rarely happens. Which is why my "to read" pile is a teetering stack next to an overstuffed bookcase of unread books that I only dream of cracking open.

People say if you want something bad enough, there's no excuse. I don't believe that. There are LOTS of excuses. Many of them are very valid ones. I literally never finish everything that needs to get done before I can "allow" myself to sit and read.

In addition to having a life, I work hard at writing. I write every singly day, I blog, I blog and edit for an e-zine, I read and write for a weekly writing group. I have a CP Mistress on the side, which requires working on a different project than my official group is working on. I read and critique manuscripts for friends. I query other projects.

So, yeah. I'm busy. Who isn't?

But, I also love this quote, and I believe in it:

Then where does that leave me?

I work hard at writing, but because of that, I don't have time to read as much as I'd like/as much as I should. I've tried audio books and other ways of getting it in, but with small children, that doesn't work as well as I would like.

Recently my husband sent me an article about how to read more books. It kinda changed my life. The article includes a few simple steps, but I only want to focus on one of them for now. Check out the article for the others.

The step that changed my life?

Read 10% of a book every day.

That's it. (Mostly).

In a standard book, 10% is only about 20-40 pages. Depending how dense the book is, I can usually do that in 15-45 minutes. It seemed easy enough, so I gave it a try.

It's great advice for anyone, but as a writer, here are my two take-aways from the experience:

1. Treat reading like a writing course. 

If there were a class that I could take every single day that only lasted a few minutes but could significantly improve my writing, wouldn't I take it? I think I would.

I believe reading has the same power as any good class. Even in the last few days, I've seen authors use techniques that have made a huge difference in my own WIP. I believe, as King said, that reading is giving me the tools I need to become a better writer.

2. Treat reading like a job.

We hear all the time that we need to treat writing like a job. Well, if reading is essential to improving at writing (my hopefully-someday-soon-job), then I should make time for it.

My schedule and workload haven't changed, but I'm making reading a priority. Some days it's a challenge to get through the minimum. Other days I can't put the book down and read much more than I'd planned. The difference is I use my time better. I get up a little earlier. I use social media a little less.

The changes are not significant enough to feel like I've sacrificed anything, but the benefits definitely feel like I've accomplished something important. And as an added bonus, I'm making time for the activity I love most.

How do you make time for reading in your busy life? Do you have any strategies you can share?

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