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!