Finding Time to Read and Write
Time is the greatest resource for writers, and also the one that’s usually in shortest supply. So you’re already snatching fifteen minutes in your lunch break to jot down plot ideas in a notebook, writing up those ideas while you wait for the dinner to cook at home – how can you balance the need to write every day, but also read widely?
It’s something I’ve struggled with. I have book review commitments that mean I generally have to read at least a book a week. It’s great, because it forces me to read, but if I’m struggling to meet a deadline, the writing is usually the first thing I sacrifice to give myself more time.
I tend to go in phases – read loads, write loads, read loads, write loads. And while I’m doing one, I do very little of the other. It isn’t great. I know that writing consistently is important, and that writing even 250 words a day will add up to a novel over time. I start projects, write intensively, then give up half way through when I burn out and go onto a reading cycle to recharge my writing batteries. What I read influences what I want to write, so I change my mind about what projects I want to work on, and nothing gets done.
It’s a habit I’m trying consciously to break, so here are a few of the things I’ve been trying to help organise my reading and my writing so they work together rather than against each other.
Have a reading plan
On my desk I have four books that have been started and not finished. That doesn’t include the two in my bedside cabinet or the one on my Kindle, or the audiobook on my phone. I’m a hopeless case when it comes to dipping in and out, and it was the first thing on my list of stuff to stop doing. Currently, I’m trying to finish all these half read novels in order to start with a fresh slate. When I’ve got a structured plan for my reading, I can get so much more done, rather than dipping in and out of different books with no focus. Have a plan for your reading as you do for your writing. Perhaps three chapters and 250 words a day, or whatever suits your timetable.
Have a regular reading slot
I’ve started substituting some of the times I would sit and fiddle aimlessly with my phone for reading time. Mostly this is in the morning when I’m eating breakfast. It’s only fifteen minutes or so, but fifteen minutes every day soon starts to add up.
If you can afford them (or loan them from your library – lots of libraries are starting to keep online catalogues that are free to download and can be accessed from home) Audiobooks are a great way of ‘reading’ while doing other things, like driving or the washing up. It not only makes mundane, necessary tasks much more enjoyable, but it gives you a lot of ‘reading time’ that you wouldn’t have otherwise had.