Don’t Forget to Read

We all become writers because of our love of books, but as we grow older and our lives get busier, it gets harder to find time to read. It’s easy to give too much time over to your social life or to spend so much time trying to write that you forget to read. As writers, we need to work on finding reading time as well as writing time.

Why do we need reading time?

Put simply, writers need to read. Reading refills the creative well. Reading allows us to examine those who came before us, the masters of our craft. Beyond that, it’s important to stay in touch with our love of books and with the book community. It’s a good idea to read popular books in the genre you write in so you can become familiar with what readers are looking for.

We can learn a lot by examining other people’s writing. To really study the craft of writing, you should always read actively, paying attention to what makes the novel great–or terrible. The concept of reading actively or reading with purpose was talked about last week by DIY MFA, a free online program designed to help writers educate themselves.

In order to become the best we can be, we need to make sure we are always studying. And that means finding time in your schedule to read.

How do I find the time?

Odds are, you’ve heard all the advice for finding writing time: write in transit to work, carry your notebook everywhere, write in line, write in the bathroom, cut out a couple TV shows, get up earlier or stay up later to write a few pages. In fact, you’ve probably tried a number of things and struggled to fit writing into your schedule, reluctantly giving up some of the other things you love so you can focus on the craft.

Unfortunately, the best way to make time for reading is to go through the process again. First, figure out how long it usually takes you to read a chapter. Each day for a week, read one chapter of a book and time yourself. At the end of the week, find the average amount of time it takes you to read a chapter, and then try to carve chapter-length chunks out of your schedule.

To find these chunks of time, look at your time spent on public transit, watching TV, going to events, visiting friends and family. Start with one chapter-length slot a day. For most people, this shouldn’t be too long–fifteen minutes, maybe a half hour. It can be taken from anywhere. If your schedule is really tight, it can even be taken out of writing time, because reading should be as important to you as writing.

Over the next week, really pay attention to how much time you spend reading–and how many chapters you can read in that time. Next week, start looking for ways to incorporate more reading into your days. Next year, be a better writer for all the things you’ve learned.

How often do you read? What are some of the things you’ve learned from reading?