Becoming a Better Writer: Making Time for Reading

It’s easy for me to be hard on myself for not making enough time for writing new material, or for editing material that needs a ton of workshopping. With a busy lifestyle, it’s easy to let my ‘personal’ work fall by the wayside while I get distracted by other things. But I’m good at reminding myself that I am behind on my writing. I’m good at punishing myself for it by doing twice as much work the next day, and I usually only get behind by a couple of weeks at the maximum. It’s more of a healthy cycle of slowing down so that I have more energy to pick things up again than it is me falling off the wagon.

Reading on the other hand? It’s hard to keep at it. Which, it shouldn’t be. I love reading. It’s one of the major reasons why I got into writing in the first place. I should be devouring new novels at a chapter an hour, lovingly pouring over each one and cataloging all of the useful plot devices and characterizations that I can use to strengthen my own writing in the future.

I don’t, though. I go to the bookstore and get discouraged because it’s either a new book or a bag of treats for my puppy, I choose to watch k-dramas with my little sister instead of getting through more chapters, I do a couple of Irish lessons on Duolingo instead of going forward, I do the laundry instead of going out to get more books, etc. And it’s easier to convince myself that it doesn’t matter. Reading someone else’s work isn’t as important as adding another paragraph to my own manuscripts, right? Besides, I’ll have plenty of time to continue reading later.

A good writer is a good reader. When I’m 10 novels behind on my Goodreads challenge for the year, I’ve starved myself of a valuable resource. I’ve denied myself 10 new perspectives, 10 new opportunities to support new authors, or marginalized authors, 10 new ways to see how plots can come together, how characters can relate, how different cultures, religions, time periods, etc. can interact with each other.

As a writer, I must be an intentional reader. I’ve talked before about how that means being intentional about what I read. Lately it’s dawned on me that this also means I must be intentional about reading in the first place. I need to save time nearly every day to read. It can be an hour, it can be twenty minutes. The dedication is what is important, and keeps me out of ruts. When I’m low on funds, I need to allot time to visit the library, or the local thrift store. (If I can’t support other authors with my money, I can at least support them with word-of-mouth recommendations!) I’ve been picking up the slack lately, and hopefully I’ll get better at this.

How about you? How will you become a more intentional reader? Or, if you’ve always been one, how do you stay encouraged?

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