My wife showed me a picture of a happy cartoon book once:
I love this picture.
Reading was actually a great fear for me all through grade school. I hold things very close to my eyes when I read and tend to go slow. When I was called upon to read aloud in class I always feared that it would sound like I was just learning to read.
Books on tape (and I do mean tape) got me hooked on fiction but when I wanted to read the most current books I just muddled through. However, I discovered that exercise was exactly what my eyes needed and soon it came very easily to me. Much later in life, I worked in radio where I read fresh news copy live on the air every day. I still read pretty slowly compared to most and I type much faster than I can follow half the time.
Last month I wrote about how research can lead you into wonderful ideas for your story while adding accuracies and trivia that everyone likes. This month I wish to stress the importance of not losing your appetite for fiction especially as you begin to write stories yourself. Sure, there’s a great argument for not wanting to inadvertently influence your own work. I worry about that myself, but influence is inspiration which only strengthens my point that you want to expose yourself to as much as you can, especially in your own genre.
Another great argument against reading while in the midst of writing is all the time you lose. It feels like you’re cheating on your book. I get that, but there’s a time to write and there’s a time to read. Think of yourself as a well, you have to fill the well with words before you can draw them up to fill your own creations.
I get the feeling that some of you didn’t need convincing of this in the first place. You love to read and couldn’t stop if you tried. That’s why you’re here. In fact, I wonder if next month I shouldn’t just write a post called: Isn’t Pizza Yummy! Or How About That Sex!
But for some, reading while writing is as difficult as trying to eat pizza while having sex. I want to acknowledge that if a more focused approach works for you, don’t bother trying to clutter your style with my new devices.
I still struggle with finding the balance. I only know that the more I read, the better I understand the craft. The better I understand the craft the more I grow as a writer. The more I grow as a writer the better opportunities I’ve received.
But where is the time to fit in all this reading and writing along with a family and a full time job? As a gentleman, I never regarded a bath as an indulgence. Like Jerry Seinfeld, I find it a very dainty affair. I’m no homophobe, (and I get the irony of even making such a statement since I got my start writing Twilight fanfic), but I just had never enjoyed the experience of a bath as much as I was expected to.
However, I’ve lately discovered that a warm bath is a haven for reading. (This was not unlike my great red pepper discovery of 2002). More than anything, a bath is big tub of peace and quiet. Again, I sense that I have merely been stating the obvious today but sometimes it’s nice to just sit around and agree on stuff together isn’t it?
If maintaining a healthy reading habit in the midst of penning your own pulp is only a little out of your comfort zone, try to compromise by reading educational or historical books. (Recipes don’t count). But anything that can turn the flow of words the other way for a little while will benefit you, trust me.
My wife can read four different books at a time while working on two stories and editing another two. I start out with several options but get into one book and follow it all the way to the end without stopping. It’s like contestants row on The Price Is Right. Sometimes the new guy gets to run right up on stage and sometimes it’s someone who’s been there a while but was the only one who didn’t overbid.
I do tend to work on multiple stories at once, but that’s just to satisfy my multiple personality disorder(s).
I am going to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year and my next post will share my experience with you. I plan to type 50,000 words in 30 days, while completing the book I am currently enjoying (A particularly harrowing offering in a longtime men’s adventure series I follow called Deathlands) and beginning a novel my wife recommended called, Eleanor and Park. It’s going to be a challenge, but back in those fan fiction days I pumped out 40 thousand words a month for two years straight, so I’m up for the task.
I believe that it will be my continued forays into someone else’s pages that will keep me on the right track as I begin a big new project…that and Red’s Strawberry Ale.