Sorry for the delay between posts. I’m involved in a big new writing project, which took a lot of my attention in August. And the new school year is beginning, which takes everything else I have left. Suddenly, the expansive summer hours of creative thought are gobbled up by teenagers and lesson planning, forcing me to scramble for every writing moment I can get. And this led me to think about life habits– the ones that help or hurt writing.
So for my next five blog posts, I’ll be discussing the F.E.W. That is, the Friends and Enemies of Writing. Each post will look at one of each.
Friend #1: Reading
Duh. Reading is tops on each “Every Writer Should…” list. So I won’t belabor the critical importance of reading, and reading a lot.
So, read. Okay. But read what? Should a writer read extensively within his/her genre, or read a wide breadth of texts? The answer is yes. A writer needs to know the depth of his/her genre, and all the work that has been done before and is being done now. But a writer also needs to explore beyond the comfort zone. Way beyond it. And not just in terms of genre, but in terms of quality, format (traditionally and self-published), and in terms of the author’s gender, race, age, and epoch.
No time for reading? If reading isn’t your primary recreation (surpassing T.V., exercise, Web surfing, napping, cooking, playing music, anything), then you might be in the wrong field. Have other interests, sure. I do. But reading is the Primary Fun.
Enemy #1: Waiting
If you have a life that permits you numerous free hours to write and read at leisure, good for you. If you’re constantly busy and bemoaning the lack of time to read and write, read on.
Stephen King says in On Writing “I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in. The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as in long swallows.” I read on the train, in the grocery store, or while washing dishes (thanks Audible!). I typically spend an hour at the dentist, 45 minutes of which are spent in a book.
When I tell people I commute an hour-plus each way, each day, the response is often pity. “That’s terrible,” they say. “Wouldn’t you rather drive?”
I would not. See, there’s nothing to do during a commute. It becomes my built-in reading/writing time, a guaranteed two hours of productivity per day. And since I don’t have endless idle hours, but a strict, limited work time, I work hard and strategically during the ride. Rather than being a burden, the commute has become one of my favorite parts of the day.
So how can you beat that enemy, Waiting? Fill the tedious moments of the day with writing and reading. Ask yourself always: Could I be reading or writing while I do this?
If the answer is yes, get to it.