Taking Time For Reading

reading dog
Credit: Armstrong Library

Good writers are avid readers.

I don’t have any statistics from scientific studies to throw at you, but based on what I know about the talented writers I’ve encountered, I stand by that statement. For most of us, a penchant for writing was the fruit which grew from our love of reading when we were young. We admired our favorite author’s ability to take us to other places, times, and situations, and we wanted to do this too. So we began crafting stories of our own.

Whether we did so consciously or not, we emulated our literary mentors. As we read their work, we began to dissect their stories, to see how they created the illusions. Like studying a magic act, we wanted to discover the slight-of-word that made it all believable.

Most of us still enjoy reading. Unfortunately, many now do not spend much time reading great novels. We’re spending so much time reading as research, or for education, or as part of our marketing efforts that the great masters lay on a shelf gathering dust. The library is thinking of closing our account because our card has not been used in such a long time. This is a shame.  

Not only are we missing out of a great, relaxing form of entertainment, be we are denying ourselves a great avenue into inspiration. Often the best inspirations come at us from left field; from some source totally unrelated to the topic we’ve been struggling with.

Reading the works of great author’s also keeps us sharp. Though we may be talented writers, enjoying success in our own right, we can slip into a rut if we rely only on our own literary devices. Reading the works of others keeps us learning new things, keeps us challenged to improve.

Where Do We Find the Time?

reading on train platform
Credit: flickr.com/photos/moriza

For many, modern life has taken over our lives so completely that we feel like we’re being pulled in a dozen directions all at the same time. Even those of us who have abandoned the work-a-day world to pursue full time self-employment find our days overcrowded with activities that all seem to be top priority. Having to spend most days at a job in order to pay the bills just exacerbates this problem.

But, there are always little pockets of down time here and there that we can use to do things that don’t require a long term commitment. Carry a book with you when you leave the house. I love my Kindle for this because it easily slips into the breast pocket of my jacket or suit coat.

  • If you take your car in for an oil change: read while you wait.
  • If you have an appointment with someone at their office and they’re still tied up; read while you wait.
  • Do you ride a train or bus? Read as you ride.
  • Take your lunch break with your favorite author.
  • Stuck in a long line at the supermarket? Read!
  • Are you waiting for little Johnny at soccer practice? Pull out the book.
  • Set aside 15 minutes at bed time to sit in bed and read. You may lose 15 minutes of sleep, but you’ll lay down more relaxed (unless you’re reading Stephen King!).
  • And my personal favorite: turn off the TV. You may not be ready to go cold turkey, but if you skip just one mindless sitcom you will have a full hour to expand your mind instead of turning it to Jell-o.

The first and most important step is to make reading a priority for your life. If you have come to think of reading a novel as one of your “someday” goals, make someday come today and commit to the effort. Once you begin a book you enjoy, you will find it much easier to follow through.

And if the book you’re reading is just not as enjoyable as you’d hoped, lay it aside and try another. There is no law that says you have to finish every book you start. If it’s just not holding your attention, find one that will. The last thing you want is for your reading to feel like a chore.

Reading is fun. Reading is good for you. Reading is low-fat and sugar free. Remember how you used to love to crawl inside a great novel? Recapture that love of reading. You’ll be glad you did.

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