Reading for Pleasure? Not when you’re writing a book!

Since, I started writing, with the view of one day publishing my work sometime in the future, hopefully not in a galaxy far, far away – I’ve been reading more than usual. In fact, in the last few months, if I’m not reading or writing, I’m feeling guilty because I should be reading or writing. This is often referred to as honing one’s craft.

Reading more is one of the Authors’ Commandments, ranking third after ‘thou shalt secure buttocks to a chair for at least an hour a day’ and ‘thou must survive on caffeine and obstinacy.’

All the literary experts have said it; writers must read more!

Basically, if you want to be a great writer, read more! Want to improve your narrative? Read more! Need to find your voice? Read More! Unlock the secrets of the universe? Read more books! The chant is incessant…read more books…read more books…more book…more books…more books…smore cooks…raw hooks…flappertteyrpskyllgenoisdungus…GAHHHHHH!!!!

*head explodes over a stack of paperbacks, brain matter sliding off leather kindle cover*

Brain meltdown notwithstanding, it really is in everyone’s best interests to read more anyway. It’s good for you, like broccoli but tastier. However, for we brave and fearless souls (read: stupid f*ckwits) trying to write professionally, reading becomes a critical exercise.

Now, when I read, I do so with an analytical eye which is less enjoyable and harder than it seems. I have besmirched the hallowed pages of paperbacks with ugly pencilled notes in the margins. I have sullied paragraphs of gentle prose with the luminous swipe of my highlighter pen! No book is safe, and my inner librarian is cursing me to the deepest pit of the seven hells! Plus, it’s not just hardcopy: my smartphone is bursting with my unrelenting obsession to collect and catalogue information that might, or might not, make it into my book.

Amazon, Foyles and my local second-hand bookshop are doing very well out of this whole affair.

This week”s download list:

  • The White Queen by Phillippa Gregory’s (currently reading)
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  • Forrest Gump by Winston Groom

The problem arises when I find myself wrestling with enjoyment versus analysis. I’m not saying one is mutually exclusive of the other, but it is difficult to lose myself in a tale when I need to dissect it objectively.

Also, how can I justify wasting time on a book that’s not my own?

I think I have the answer: something somewhere has to be sacrificed and I don’t mean your neighbour’s annoying cockapoo cross!

To successfully read and write for fun as well as work, I had to sacrifice my time elsewhere, usually in the form of television. I watch a lot of shows, but over the last few weeks, I’ve left them alone. I clocked up at least five weeks of Supernatural, four weeks of Castle and I don’t know how many episodes of The Vampire Diaries and The Originals I have left. At the time of writing this, I still haven’t seen episode seven of Game of Thrones and I’ve threatened to name an offensive character after anyone who reveals spoilers! You have been warned!

I make sure that for every few weeks of writing; I take a day off and relax. No guilt, no word count, just me and hours of episodes to enjoy at my leisure.