Writing versus Reading

I came across this post by agent Nathan Bransford asking whether people spend more time reading or writing, and since this is an issue I’ve struggled with personally, I thought it would make a good topic for my own post.  I’ve heard that you have to read in order to write–agent Janet Reid makes a comment about this on her post here where she says, “The idea you’ll write a novel without reading is like saying you’ll play pro basketball but not practice with your team. You’ll just show up and people will throw you the ball.”

However, I’ve also heard it said there are two kinds of people, those who read and those who write.  Personally, I’m more inclined to believe Janet Reid’s take on this, and not just because she’s the shark.  Most people I talk to who actually love to write, love to read as well.  If you don’t love to read, there doesn’t seem to be much point in creating yet more words.  That’s like people who hate to eat becoming chefs.  Does it happen? Maybe.  I don’t know.  But it certainly doesn’t make much sense.

Whenever I write and I get into the flow of my book, I feel like I’m reading.  In fact, when I’m really into it, there’s hardly any difference between reading and my writing except that my fingers are moving.  These are the parts of my manuscripts that are the best, versus the sections where I’ve had to painfully plot along, stringing a few words together, just trying to get through a scene.  So, since reading and writing are very similar if you’re in the flow in each, then it makes sense to me that the more you do of one, the better you’d be at the other.  The more books you read, the more stories you absorb, the better you’ll be at creating your own.  This is especially true if you read critically–analyzing bits of dialogue, character description, etc., while still enjoying the book.

However, on the flipside of this I’ve found that the more I read, the less I actually write.  I just have no self-control, and when I’m reading a good book, all I feel like doing is reading that book.  Writing, schoolwork, household chores, and all that important stuff just go right out the window.  Not only does this lead to some interesting fights with my husband, but it’s really not good for my attempts at a writing career if I’m not spending any time actually writing.  I try to pass it off as research, but I’m not really fooling anyone, least of all myself.  The worst part is when I’m in the middle of a series, because this can lead to days, weeks even of my doing nothing but reading.

So, how do you balance your reading and writing habits? I know someone who only reads on the lightrail to and from work, and when she’s home, she keeps the book closed.  Personally, I’ve found that I just need to have periods of time when I’m not reading a book.  Like right now, for instance.  Since I took that lovely hiatus the past couple of weeks, I’ve been staying away from books for a while, just so I can get my word counts back up again and get into my own writing.  I’d be interested in hearing any other suggestions people have for balancing these two.

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Published in: on June 23, 2010 at 9:14 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You could be describing my experience! How odd. I wonder if there are a lot of us who do this.

    • Thanks, Sonia! I like to think so. It’s always nice to know you have company. : )


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