Thankful Thursday: My Reading Addiction

So I’ve been musing about this post for a while. Basically, I’ve been thinking about how much I read and where that time comes from and what I get from the actual reading. And I’ve been hesitating about writing up the post, because I was a bit afraid of sounding whiny (about having to sometimes put reading aside to get some other things done), or braggy (about how many books I do read), or defensive (like: it is so not a waste of precious writing time when I pick up someone else’s book).

But then Jennifer R. Hubbard put up a little post about why reading is so absolutely wonderful and necessary, and I thought, Oh, just write the damned thing. And make it a gratitude post, and you won’t be able to whine. Much.

I think this whole thought-path started when I decided to keep count of how many books I read this year. I see other people talking about that on their blogs, and I got a bit curious about what my number would actually be. So on January 1st, I started keeping track. I’m not counting picture books, not because they don’t count–value-wise–just as much as a novel, but it takes me such a short amount of time to read one, I felt like I’d be cheating just to inflate my count! (Yes, I can go loopy over just about any issue, why do you ask?) And I wasn’t going to keep track of research books, unless I read them cover to cover, rather than jumping around between the topics I really need to learn about. So, basically, that left me with novels and memoirs, many of which I knew would be (and have been) rereads.

As of today, I’m at 151 books.

I read a lot.

  • I read while I eat.
  • I read while I cook.
  • I read when I take a bath.
  • I read in the car (parked!).
  • I read at night before I go to sleep.
  • I read on the couch for luxuriously long sessions.
  • I read instead of doing a better job cleaning the house.
  • I read instead of choosing a complicated recipe that will require me to spend more time at the stove, thinking about what I’m doing.
  • I read instead of meditating.
  • I read, some days, instead of doing yoga.
  • I read instead of writing.

Pretty much the only item in that list that has the potential to bother me is that last one. Because, yes, if I’m tired or stressed or worried about what I’m going to write, I will pick up a book rather than a manuscript.

This is not so good. I don’t actually worry about it too much, because I know how much I get from reading, not just for my sanity but for my writing skills as well. I am halfway through a book that I’m enjoying, but guess what–it’s making me remember that world-building, cool as it is, can’t take the place of action and conflict for too many pages or I start skimming over it. I just finished a book that wrought such a perfect balance between its world-building and its story that I need to put it on the list of books to study. I get inspired by what I read, and I go back to my own writing recharged and remotivated.

Still, if one was crazy enough to look at it in terms of hours, it’d be hard to miss the number of those hours that I would have available to write…if. If I slowed down on the reading. If I set writing requirements for myself, with reading rewards. If I only brought home three or four books from the bookmobile, instead of ten or twelve. If, if, if…

Not going to happen. My husband spends hours and miles on his bicycle, because riding does pretty much the same thing for him that reading does for me. (If you ignore the fact that none of those reading activities I listed actually does a thing for my physical health.) It’s why we back each other’s habits–not just because we’re nice and kind and supportive. Because we know what it would be like to live with the other person if they didn’tget all that time with their bicycle/books.

I shudder to even think about it.

So, yeah, the reading will continue. Let’s just say the voracious reading will continue. Yes, this year, I’ve got some big writing goals, and I know I’m going to push myself to keep at them. So, okay, maybe the reading-to-writing ratio will shift just a little bit in a new direction. Which would be okay.

The house-cleaning, though? Don’t get your hopes up!

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15 thoughts on “Thankful Thursday: My Reading Addiction

  1. anvillasante says:

    Okay, my first thought was – wow! 151 books! Have I read even close to that number? I’m going to start keeping track, especially after I saw the NPR list of best 100 YA books and realized there’s a bunch on there that I must, but haven’t yet, read.
    As for reading keeping you from writing, I can’t agree. In my head (twisted as it is) reading IS writing. It’s reverse engineering writing. Everything I read feeds the hopper of my imagination, everything is useful. Reading is the only thing I don’t feel guilty about doing instead of writing because engaging the imagination in that way is, for me at least, a way to prime my writing brain. I’m reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern right now and I’m loving it – I’m also seeing the craft-work, how the seams fit together. As long as you can pay attention to that (as you do) then you are golden.

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  2. I love your list of when you read, Becky. And yay for 151 books!

    For my money, some of the best writing advice ever is: “Read, read, read. Write, write, write.” Though like you, I find that one sometimes gets in the way of the other!

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    • beckylevine says:

      Amy, I always sort of assume that everybody else reads during all those activities, too, but every now and then, I think…wait. Maybe not.

      You just said exactly (in one sentence!) what I think my whole post was about. After family (of course!) they’re my two top priorities. And maybe sometimes I need to reshift the balance JUST A LITTLE.

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    • beckylevine says:

      Debby, I know-I read fast. I can get through an Agatha-Christie reread in a couple of hours. I get so used to reading faster than everyone (except my mom who just races through a book), I almost went into shock the other day when I was reading along with a friend on her iphone, and when I still had a few sentences to go, she was saying, “Tell me when you’re ready.” I was humbled. 🙂

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  3. Jenn Hubbard says:

    Often, I find that I write more when I’m reading a lot. The very act of reading sparks me to tell my own stories. I like new books for when I need a creative boost.

    Sometimes I won’t start reading a new book while I’m in an intense phase of writing, because I don’t want my need to know what happens next to pull me away from my own work. But I can reread then.

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    • beckylevine says:

      Jenn, yes, this happens to me, too. And there are many times I drop the reading book, BECAUSE it’s gotten me fired up to write. So that probably does counter the times I’m keep going and put off the story for a while. Feeling better now! Oh, little story: the only time I actually had to stop reading something because it was interfering with my writing was when I was working on my MG mystery, narrated by a 12-year-old boy, and I got on such a reading binge of the PRINCESS DIARY series that my hero started talking like Mia. 🙂

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  4. I love this post, Becky. You made me want to read more (and I already want to read whenever I can). I just had the frustrating experience of taking two plane trips with a 2-year-old. Frustrating because for me, plane trips are for reading. And while I was able to get some reading done, it was not the same as my prior total immersion. Ah well! Seriously, though, I think that you have to make time for whatever it is that recharges you. Kudos to you and your husband for understanding that about each other.

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    • beckylevine says:

      Oh, Jen, I remember those days. Don’t worry, though, because you ARE–and you know this–growing a child who will be reading with you on those plane rides soon enough. We took Ian to Iceland when he was 7 or 8, and Louis Sacher’s WAYSIDE SCHOOL (with a few rereads) kept him happy driving (literally) across the country and curling up on bunkbeds in hostels. You’ll get your reading time back, and the two of you will be doing it side-by-side, sharing passages back & forth. I promise.

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  5. Christine says:

    Yay 151! 🙂
    I have no idea where I am for the year, but I can say that the Kindle/iphone combo has been amazing for me reading-wise. I can leave my kindle on my nightstand (or bring it to the tub, but if my husband asks, I so didn’t say that!) and my iphone goes with me whenever I leave the house, and they wifimagically know where I am in the book. So add “at the post office” and “in line at Target” and I’m right there with you. 🙂

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