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Reading for pleasure? Not when you’re writing a book

Writers must read!

It’s no secret that authors are likely to be avid readers, but when does reading for pleasure take a back seat to the purpose of reading for study?

Since I started writing, I’m reading more than usual. In fact, in the last few months, if I’m not reading or writing, I’m feeling guilty because I should be reading or writing.

All the experts have said it: writers must read.

The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.

Samuel Johnson

Basically, if you want to be a great writer, read more! Want to improve your narrative? Read more! Need to find your voice? Read More! Unlock the secrets of the universe? Read more !

The chant is incessant… read more books…read more books… more book… more books… more books… smore cooks… raw hooks… flappertteyrpskyllgenoisdungus… GAHHHHHH!!!! *head explodes over a stack of paperbacks, brain matter sliding off leather kindle cover*

Reading is good for the grey matter

Brain meltdown notwithstanding, it really is in everyone’s best interests to read more anyway. It’s good for you… like broccoli but tastier. However, for we brave and fearless souls (read: stupid f*ckwits) trying to write professionally, reading becomes a critical exercise.

Reading for analysis

At the moment, the majority of my reading is done with an analytical eye, which is less enjoyable and harder than it seems.

I have besmirched the hallowed pages of paperbacks with ugly pencilled notes in the margins. I have sullied paragraphs of gentle prose with the luminous swipe of my highlighter pen. No book is safe! My inner librarian is cursing me to the deepest pit of the seven hells.

And, it’s not just hardcopy: my smartphone is bursting with my unrelenting obsession to collect and catalogue information that might, or might not, make it into a book one day.

On a positive note, Amazon, Foyles and my local second-hand bookshop are doing very well out of this whole affair.

This week’s reading list:

  • The White Queen by Phillippa Gregory’s
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  • Forrest Gump by Winston Groom

The problem occurs when I find myself wrestling with enjoyment versus analysis. I’m not saying one is mutually exclusive of the other, but I find it difficult to lose myself in a novel when I need to look at it objectively.

Also, guilt rears its ugly head. How can I justify ‘wasting’ time on a book that’s not my own? I think I have the answer…

Need time? Something’s gotta give

To make more time for reading, something, somewhere, has to be sacrificed. And, I don’t mean your neighbour’s annoying cockapoo cross

Personally, I found more hours in the day by sacrificing other activities like binge-watching Netflix and sleeping. Believe me, I watch a lot of TV shows. In a short amount of time, I redefined ‘binging’ by clocking up a month’s worth of Supernatural, Castle, The Vampire Diaries and The Originals in a matter of days.

Taking a break is important too

Writing is a marathon, not a sprint, and doing too much can be just as detrimental as doing too little. Creative burnout is VERY real.

To ensure I don’t morph into a crazy person who shouts at pigeons, I make sure to take breaks. Coffee is usually involved. I shut my laptop, put down my book, then I go and enjoy something mindless and easy. No guilt, no word count, no stress.

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