Over the last two weeks I’ve talked about renewing your commitment to writing and what counts as writing time. But-as a wise commentor pointed out last week-reading is just as important to your future as a writer as writing is.
The fact is, one in four people doesn’t read any books at all. As a writer, you can’t afford to be one of those people, regardless of how busy you are. Just like you need to make time to write, you need to make time to read. For me reading is a lot more flexible-I can’t write much by hand and even if I had a laptop it would only travel so far-so it’s a lot easier to commit to than writing is. That said, a lot of times I do still fall short.
There are many kinds of reading-reading for work, reading online, reading books, reading for research, reading for enjoyment. You need to make some time for all of them, but odds are you already make time to read for work, to read online, and possibly even to read for research. It’s taking time to read for enjoyment that’s key, and it’s the kind of reading most people forget about.
Reading for enjoyment isn’t necessarily separate from reading for work or research-it all depends on how the books/online stuff is written and what you’re reading about-but you need to also take time to read specifically for enjoyment. Time to read a silly fantasy novel like any of the Discworld books or a heavier novel like How to Kill a Mockingbird if that’s what you like.
When you’re reading for enjoyment, don’t think too hard about how the story comes together. Your subconscious will notice it, and every once in a while something will leap out at you, but the point is to get lost in a story that isn’t yours. Simply by turning around when you’re finished and asking what made that story so good, you’ll learn something.
So how do you make time for reading? You can pick a book to bring with you on your daily commute if you’re not driving-it takes me forty five minutes to an hour to get to school, each way, for example-and it might just amaze you how much reading you’ll get done. You can make a commitment to read every day at least one way on your journey. You can decide to stop watching TV entirely and replace that hour or two (and if you watch TV for more than two hours on a regular basis, you need to cut back on that anyway) with a good book.
Not only do you learn a lot from reading but reading also increases your quality of life-it makes you think, it entertains, and stories are always good for the soul. Reading is essential, in my opinion, not just for a writer but for full development in any person. And it’s important that you make the time to read even when you think you’re ‘too busy’.
I’ve decided that I want to read for enjoyment for an hour five days a week, the same amount of time that I hope to spend writing. I think this is a good starting commitment and I know that I’ll be able to stick with it even during school-the joys of a long commute.
What does your commitment to reading look like?