Thursday, January 19, 2006

To read, or to write--that is the question

A pledge of sorts has been going around some of the blogs and journals I read, and yesterday several friends signed on with their personal goals to read fifty books in 2006. These over-achieving freaks committed bibliophiles also listed the books they’d already finished this year, which was anywhere from three to seven. That’s seven. Eighteen days into the year, some people have read seven books.

I guess I’m not really doing too badly on that front. I’ve read four books (five, just as soon as I get twenty minutes to finish The Devil Wears Prada), and I’ve got a stack beside my bed that I can’t wait to dive into. I know that I probably could read fifty books this year if I put my mind to it. But the problem is, once I start reading, it’s hard to stop. I love books, I love stories, I love the constant flow of information into my brain. However, since I’m also trying to be a writer, I have to leave myself time to write. I wish I could do both at the same time—really, I’ve even attempted to listen to audiobooks while writing—but it simply doesn’t work.

It’s a balancing act, I suppose, because despite being stingy with any time I could potentially spend writing, I know that I need to spend time reading. For one thing, I need to keep up with the industry. The hours I spend in bookstores or checking out recommendations on Amazon keep me at least slightly in touch with what other authors are writing and what publishers (and the public) are buying. But more importantly, I have to read if I’m going to write. Reading is what made me want to write in the first place—that kick of inspiration that comes from reading a book I love, the “I MUST be able to do better than that,” that strikes after a truly bad book. Regardless of what I read, I know that reading makes me a better, more prolific writer—and it gives me ideas for future projects, too.

So I’ve decided I won’t be pledging fifty books this year, but I will be reading. Fast or slow, short or long, just as long as I’m reading I know I can still create. I have decided to keep track of my reading, an idea snitched from my Web pals—I can’t believe how many of you were already keeping track! This will hopefully solve an ongoing problem for me; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to go back and find something in a book I read and can’t remember what the hell I’ve read recently.

For me, reading and writing go hand in hand—I think they always have. If I didn’t take time to curl up with a book every now and then, I might have more time to write, but I doubt I’d actually write more. It’s not a difficult equation at all, even for me: reading = creativity, therefore reading = writing. The key, as in all things, is to keep the equation balanced.


Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

Do unpublished books count? Because I've yet to finish any of the half dozen books with covers that I'm currently reading, but I have motored through seven complete novel manuscripts, half of another, one novella, and the first three chapters of about a dozen more since January 1. What do you think that adds up to? 50 books in a year is easy... it's finding someone to talk to about them that's the tricky part. It only works out if the manuscripts are worth publishing... ;-)

6:29 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer Echols said...

From "agentobscura" on LJ: "The other day, my client Simone Elkeles’ editor, Andrew Karre at Flux, said: Authors should be reading a dozen books for every book that they write. – It’s true for authors and doubly true for agents. I need to read dozens of books for every book I represent." I like that goal for authors, because the amount of reading is tied to the amount of writing. For me, four down, eight to go.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Jana J. Hanson said...

I can't help it I'm a fast reader!! And while you're a good writer (determined, focused), the temptation to read is just too great for me.

And Nephele, I'd love to help you out with those unpubs. Reading is reading, I say.

8:13 PM  
Anonymous Angela said...

One freak checking in. ;) Too bad I can't count the online fiction that I read. That would seriously up my total. What would a 750k online story work out to in hardcopy page count I wonder?

8:53 PM  
Anonymous Anne said..., see. I pledge to track the books that I'm reading, but I know that I'll never finish 50 books this year because I'm a slooooooooooow reader. I don't read NEARLY as much as I'd like to! 19 days into the month and I'm still not done with my first book of the month! LOL!

But I like your method of doing it. I will be reading. That's so very true!

I love this blog, Mel :) Great stuff to say and great stuff to read. Keep it up :)

10:03 PM  

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