I don’t read as much as I used to. It’s embarrassing to admit, for someone in the word business. But life is busy. I no longer commute by bus, which used to make me a captive for several hours a day (NOT that I’m complaining about that). Finding time is hard. Not because reading has stopped being a delectable treat, but because there are finite hours and writing is also a delectable treat. So… which to choose?
The fact is you can’t be a good writer without being a reader. It’s like trying to be a zoologist in your living room. You can’t. You’ve got to go out in the wild and see words in their natural habitat. Watch them dance and run and play. Only then will you know them.
So here are a few tips for getting in more reading time:
1. Reading is more important than housework. Always. Put down the sponge and grab a novel.
2. Carry a book, always, and never wait idly. I read on supermarket lines and while waiting for my kids. (Yes, I am a total nerd).
3. Don’t want to carry a paper book like I do? Download e-versions onto your smart phone. Nobody looks at you funny when you’re staring at your screen.
4. Never read more than 50 pages of a book that bores you. I recently read a quote which I found tough as a writer but which is really true: as a reader, you owe nothing to the writer. The book exists purely for your entertainment. The minute it stops doing its job, fire it. There’s no English professor waiting to give you points for completion. Dump it. Take it from a recovering book-completion junkie: life is too short to read books that don’t thrill you.
5. Join a book club. Use peer pressure in your favor. You’ll end up drinking wine more than discussing the actual book, but you won’t want to be the only one who shows up without knowing what the book is about.
6. Re-read your favorite books from your youth. You know the ones, the books that first turned you on to the opportunity to visit new worlds and characters. The ones that changed everything. They can often stir up the old feeling of wonder. Read them again. It’s not cheating. It’s reading.
That’s it! Get reading!