Sir Richard Steele said, “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”
I think about exercising every day. But I can almost always find a promising excuse not to exercise—I need the time to work or I have to clean the toilets (wait, scrubbing counts as an upper body workout, doesn’t it?).
I do, however, read every day. BC (Before Child), I would read for hours during the weekends. These days I read before bed or in the tub (sorry for that bit of TMI) or on those rare weekend days when hubby and child are off doing boy things.
And I usually have several things going at the same time because, like exercise, there are different types of reading.
Reading to learn
Craft books, blogs, writing magazines. Every writer should have a library of craft books and a “bookmark” with favorite blogs.
Sadly, reading and exercise have one more thing in common—you don’t get stronger without doing it. Having that treadmill in the basement won’t get you fit (although I keep hoping). And having those pretty books with pristine spines won’t help either.
Read them. Take notes in them. Tab sections you know you’ll come back to. Reread them until they fall open automatically to those special sections.
At least your brain cells will be svelte. 😉
Reading to keep up
If an agent you’re eyeballing to query is raving about a particular book, read it. It’ll give you great insight into what that agent likes.
What books are hitting the bestseller lists? Read them, and not just because everyone else is. What about those books stands them above similar books?
What books are your favorite authors recommending?
Reading for inspiration
Read authors you admire and take notes about what moves you, why something worked, phrases that made you sigh with longing for a smidgen of that talent.
If you’re an aspiring writer, read debut authors in your genre. Think about what made that book stand out to an agent and editor for it to be picked up.
And if you’ve started reading a book that you really are not enjoying, don’t shelve it yet. Read more. I know, I know … why waste your time reading something you don’t like? Because you can learn from these books as well. If you were that author’s critique partner or beta reader, what would your revision notes look like?
Reading for the sake of reading
A few weeks ago I was reading a blog post from Off the Shelf. The book being reviewed sounded interesting but it was the following quote by the reviewer that did me in: “I am constantly on the prowl for something that will distract me from the ‘task’ of reading and remind me of the joy of reading.”
Right? Remember those days?
Curl up with a beautifully written book. Don’t take notes and don’t analyze. Yes, I just told you to take notes and analyze. Go with me here. Read to read. Read for the love of words. Read to lose yourself. You can always go back, reread, and take notes.
I walk away from craft books and blog posts/articles with a determination to apply what I’ve learned. But it’s the books that make me forget everything around me that truly inspire me to get back to my own writing.
In On Writing, Stephen King wrote, “The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing.”
If Stephen King says it, who are we to question it?
Now if he’d just write about the importance of exercising …
A question to WITS readers: Do you read while you’re in the middle of a WIP? If yes, what do you read—books in the same genre? Different genre? Craft books? Do you shy away from books that are similar to the project you’re working on?
After years of pushing the creativity boundary in corporate communications, Orly decided it was time for a new challenge. Three women’s fiction manuscripts later (plus a handful of picture books), it’s safe to say she’s found her creative outlet. When she’s not talking to her imaginary friends, she’s reading or at least trying to ignore everyone around her long enough to finish “just one more paragraph.” Orly is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.