Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Luxurious Necessity of Reading

It's not as though there aren't things to blog about. My mind is filled during the day with constant posts I wish I could sit and write, even as I'm standing in line to pick up clothes from the dry cleaners or dodging fat raindrops from the grocery store to the car.

Even last night, I woke in the middle of the night with a fantastic blog post in my head - something about photography and bokeh and aperatures, and how it all relates to writing stories. I'm still trying to remember that one, because in my foggy, sleepy head it was brilliant.

I don't blog enough because I just am not making the time these days. It feels like both a necessity and a luxury, but in these summer months when I'm either traveling or entertaining kids, it's a miracle I can keep my brain from oozing out my ears.

This weekend, after my husband returned from a long business trip, I took Sunday afternoon off and laid by the side of the pool in the sweltering sun... and read. A book. That I wanted to read.

It sounds easy but it wasn't. Choosing the book alone was difficult. I've got a teetering pile of 16 books I've bought with the intention of reading that I've barely cracked. A few of them I've ventured into a chapter or more, but been bored with.

That's right. Bored.

There's a stress I put on myself in the summer... to find a great beach read. One of those easy, captivating, can't put down eye/brain-candy kind of books. And somehow I've found myself with a TBR pile of serious literary fiction. Did I mention my brain is a little melty right now?

But Sunday I hit the right one, and I lazed about for several hours devouring it.

When Monday rolled around, I kept sneaking into it, reading snippits as I cooked dinner or cleaned the vaccum attachment that suddenly stopped working. (Hey, if you've gotta be standing at the counter holding a screwdriver and mindlessly pulling hair and carpet fibers from a machine, you might as well have a book open while you're doing it).

I told a friend I couldn't wait to get into grad school so I could justify curling up with a good book as work.

Then, somewhere in the last third of the book, as I was reading and mentally filing lists of things to change and add and tweak in my own novel, I realized it was work. It was, in some sense, good for my writing, and for my future career, to read good books. I can honestly say now that I learned some great writing tips from reading this weekend. Things about structure, and slipping in important details and background as the story progresses to add layers and depth and tension.

I rarely drag out reading books though, and so tonight I'm already done with it and wondering what to do next. Ignore my family and read another good book? Ignore my family and dive back into my WIP? Or go back to doing 5 loads of laundry and 5 rounds of dishes a day?

Decisions, decision....


  1. Decisions, decisions, decisions..

    I love when you come across a book that you just can't put down.


    I totally relate about the blog thing. I'll have ideas but by the time I write them down they have disappeared from my mind, like someone has removed them with a wand.

    Good luck with your choice.

  2. I agree with the blog thing! Sometimes I'll end up writing 5 fun snappy ones at once and then I save them so I can post one a day and look super efficient ;p Love it when that happens :)

  3. I wish I had a really great book to read-I'd lay on my patio all day with it and forget everything else. I started one yesterday that a friend gave me and already feel bored with it.

  4. I'd undoubtedly still read like mad even if I lost interest in writing. But, particularly as a writer, reading is so important. I try not to read "like a writer"; simply because I don't all that hyper-awareness and over-criticalness to ruin my reading experience, but I can't help but pick up tricks and techniques from the masters, some of it through sheer osmosis! Love it.

  5. K.M. - I'm working on just enjoying reading instead of analyzing, which is why I love being able to read and pick up techniques I love instead of nitpicking over the things I don't like. :)

  6. I asked my facebook readers to lasso me if they ever see me enter a bookstore. My to-read shelf is over-flowing! I do see reading as research and learning for my own writing. But I love it so much that it never feels like work. I'm being blessed with an abundance of reading right now, including free books that are showing up in the mail! But if a book doesn't grab me within the first three chapters I will not continue with it.

    I must say my reading has increased since taking a break from my writing blog. Soon I'll have to decide how I'll manage my writing blog and not get overwhelmed! But for now, I will enjoy my reading time, and will try out your tips on sneaking in reading time when cleaning out the vacuum and other such life stuff!