And Still Have Time to Read

The contemporary writer has a lot on her hands.  She has to be a publicist, a career manager, an agent, a distributor, a social media guru, an agent provacateuse, a literary lawyer, etcetera, ad infinitum.  And of course, she needs to put all her passion and energy into writing; after all, that’s what it’s all about, right?

Oh, and one more thing:  She has to read.  She has to read what’s hot and new in order to keep up with what’s happening in the literary world, AND if she writes genre fiction (mystery, young adult, romance, fantasy, science fiction, thriller, horror, etc.) she needs to read extensively in that genre to keep up with what’s happening in that field.  If she writes in more than one genre, or if she blends genres (as Gail Upp and I do in World Enough and Time, the novel we are writing), she needs to read extensively in those genres to keep up…you get it.


So when do you get the time?  Especially since there are actually very few writers who write full-time, and derive their full incomes from writing.  Most of us have jobs, family, friends, activities.  You know:  A life.

I solve part of the problem by reading in the cracks of time in my schedule.  At meals (unless we have company), while on line at the credit union or grocery store (my Nook comes in handy here), in the bathroom (that’s where I catch up on magazines).  Fortunately, I’m a very fast reader, so I can get through a book in a day if I don’t have to practice, or learn new music, or have a lesson, or a rehearsal, or an audition, or a concert/service.  And if I have enough time and energy after doing my daily dose of writing, re-writing, editing, research and agonizing.

My To Be Read pile (credit: Google Images)

So the pile of books To Be Read becomes two piles, then three.  The magazines

multiply, as do, just incidentally, the newspapers.  What’s a girl to do?

So, I’ve become VERY selective in my reading.  Is a book badly written?  I drop it.  Is a magazine article something I’ll never use, or is boring, or (as is sometimes the case in Scientific American) I don’t understand?  Skip to the next article.  In the newspapers I read the headlines, the agony aunt (for the psychology and story ideas), the book and music (mostly classical) reviews and updates, and (full disclosure) the comics.  I’ve developed an extremely low tolerance for the bad, the boring, the useless, the time-waster.  Do I run the risk of missing something I can use, or would like?  Of course.  But no system is perfect, and this at least keeps me sane.

What keeps you sane as far as your reading life is concerned?  How do you handle the need to read?  Let us know.  You might be helping a fellow writer keep her head above water?

The Harried Writer (credit: Google Images)

Until next time…keep reading.

9 thoughts on “And Still Have Time to Read

  1. Pingback: The Secret to Writing « Gail in Estes

  2. Hi Sharon!
    I find I am able to read more and faster with my Kindle. Like you, I read at what I call intermission time in my life. I also read when I realize what a waste of time most TV is. I won’t ever be able to keep up with reading books by all of my friends, plus my favorite authors, plus make room to discover new authors etc.
    It gets frustrating, but I’m glad there are so many books out there to read

    • I end up watching more TV in general because my husband is an actor and he has to keep up with the programs in pretty much the way businesspeople read the WSJ. But yes, I keep it to a minimum. There are some wonderful, and intelligent TV shows (The Good Wife, Jon & Stephen), but most of it is dreck.

  3. Mostly, I too will discard a crappy book, but if there’s a reason to read it (book club, etc.) I might soldier on, and use the bad writing as something to learn from.

    The more I chisel off my TBR list at the front end, the longer it gets at the back, however!

    • I am convinced that the TBR breeds. We will never catch up. There are worse fates. And true, if you can learn something, even if just what to avoid, then a badly-written book can be useful.

  4. My reading fluctuates widely depending on season and mood. In cold weather (October through early March), I read rich, chewy stuff (Dickens is a favorite; I’m working through the complete works a second–in some cases third or fourth or fifth–time). Once the weather warms up, I switch gradually to lighter fare, until over the summer I’m reading the equivalent of popcorn. I read magazines over breakfast and, um, while taking care of other business (I’m trying to be delicate here). I’m usually caught up with Time, which arives weekly; I’m always months behind on Discover and Smithsonian. And like you, if an article doesn’t grab me pretty fast, I skip it. And I don’t read the magazines that come with my contributions to various organizations: they go directly in the recycling bin, even though I wish I did have time to read them.

    It’s rare, however, that I start a book and don’t finish it. But I don’t read in the “genre” in which I write, because I don’t know what genre it is–and even if I did, I wouldn’t want to be either influenced or discouraged by what someone else is doing. But I also haven’t written anything in ages and ages and ages. I need a certain amount of time and brain space, unoccupied by other mental distractions, and although I know I “should” create more of that time and space, doing so feels impossibly difficult. So I’m a wannabe writer, not an actual writer.

    All that said, what you do sounds profoundly reasonable and intelligent. Most of all, it works for you, which is the point.

    • It can be tough to find a balance between reading in one’s genre to keep up with what’s happening, and allowing it to influence you. If I’m working on something in a particular genre–fantasy let’s say–I’ve noticed that my fantasy reading decreases. Maybe it’s an instinctive reaction to not wanting to be influenced. I tend to handle music the same way. If I’m working on a particular piece I won’t listen to someone else’s recording until I have the piece firmly in my own mind, with my own interpretation.

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