“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” - Stephen King
The writing bug bit me hard and early. It consumed me to the point where I felt guilty if I wasn’t writing, which inevitably took the joy out of a lot of other activities I’d previously enjoyed. One of these activities was reading, something I’ve loved from the first time I sounded out syllables.
As I kept writing, my reading continued to decline, until at last it reached the point where I wrote more books per year than I read. This reality was brought home to me at a library book event in Michigan, where an attendee asked me to name some good books in the same genre in which I wrote. Although I managed to spout a title or two, it wasn’t easy and I was struck by the realization that I perhaps didn’t have any business writing the same stuff I wasn’t reading. How could I know what had already been done? How could I know what was working and what wasn’t? The more I thought about this the deeper it went. Did I have any business even writing if I wasn’t reading?
I made the decision to go back to reading, to set aside some of the time I had spent writing and dedicate it to finding good books written by others. As my reading increased, I was surprised to find that my own writing improved, ideas flowed more freely, and the times of creative drought lessened.
Then I found the above quote by Stephen King and it all clicked. Reading was not waste of time, even if it meant less writing. By reading more, I could ultimately write more efficiently, more effectively. Reading was like refilling the gas tank on a car or charging a battery.
Since then I’ve made reading part of my creative routine, as important as writing, and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made.
If you find yourself low on morale or ideas, try grabbing a book from the shelf. If you’re having trouble creating your own world, lose yourself for awhile in someone else’s.