Reading is important for a writer.

readerI’m getting back on it and I have evidence. I’ve just finished about 3 chapters over the past month or so which is good going for this novel. 26,000 words in total.

It’s been a struggle at times as you can see in previous posts but with a little help and new momentum I’ve been moving on quite well, writing most days.

So what stopped me?

Well, I had other things going on which were taking up my mind and creativity, also this novel has been the one I’ve done the least amount of research and note taking before starting – it’s a more of a fly by the seat of your pants approach – and I also realised I was reading a lot less too.

There’s this quote by Stephen King that seems to pop up in my Twitter timeline once a week;

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.

I never quite bought that quote before but after the past few months I’ve changed my mind. It seems a bit counter-intuitive; reading surely takes up time when you could be writing, and, reading could negatively influence your own writing in terms of unwittingly plagiarising words, themes and plots.

But it doesn’t. There seems to be something sub-conscious going on where your brain is constantly processing words, keeping it attuned and familiar with the patterns and rhythms.

It might be like a chef eating food cooked by others to pick apart their recipes or a tennis player watching other players to discover how they play.  You need a break but you can’t be totally cut off from it all.

Reading gives you a break without breaking your momentum.

I struggled to finish a book (‘I, Robot: To Protect’ by Mickey Zucker Reichert), it didn’t suck me in but I progressed with it as it was a prequel to one of my favourite books of all time; ‘I, Robot‘. During this time I wrote virtually nothing.

It’s made me think again about abandoning a book, I’ve only abandoned two in my life; Catch 22 and The Book of Dave by Will Self. Iain Broome and Manuela Boyle talk about abandoning books in a recent podcast (‘Write for Your Life – S03E25 – You didn’t laugh the first time‘) where the consensus seems to be if you’re not enjoying it, dump it, life’s too short. Which makes sense but I think I needed to hear it from other people as giving up on a book feels like a failure of intellect or dedication.

The Independent also published this article recently – Fifty Shades of Grey and JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy are all too putdownable – which includes Catch 22 as one of the top 5 most abandoned books according to GoodReads. So I’m not a terrible person…or I am but there’s loads of us.

So what does all this mean? I think it means; If you’re not writing, start reading. If you aren’t reading, then read something else.

Anyway, I will be giving Catch 22 another go soon, maybe after I’ve finished Novel 3. ‘The Book of Dave’? I’ll wait for the film to come out.