As Stephen King once said if you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time to be a writer. It’s a really simple concept: for writers, reading is like our MBA program or medical school, and without that training, we won’t go far. I’ve tried to stand behind the advice of this prolific author (who claims to go through upwards of 80 books a year) but sometimes it’s just so damn hard. Even a book a week can be a hassle. Between working, school, taking care of the kids, being a full-time bum, whatever it is that you do, AND writing, it can seem impossible to get in that reading time.
So, what do we do? Be creative, of course. We, as writers, just need to find new ways to utilize down time. Down time is when you’re stuck in traffic, waiting for the bus, in line at the doctor’s office, walking down the street, etc, etc. These are times where you’re not really doing much, but you can’t exactly pull out a book. Take it from someone who has run into a pole because his face was buried between the pages of a juicy novel, it’s not what you want.
Audiobooks. I started listening to audiobooks about a year ago and it has really helped me get some books under my belt. I ordered my first from eMusic.com, loaded it on my iPod, and gave it a spin. In the beginning, I was hitting the rewind button enough to blister my thumb because my mind would keep wandering and I’d miss chunks of the story, but soon I became accustomed reading through my ears. At the time I was still in college and would listen whenever I was doing something where hearing wasn’t a necessity. My mind would wrap around the alien invasion in King’s Dreamcatcher on my way to class, wonder how Matthias would save the Abbey in Jacque’s Redwall while slaving over a hands-on project, or work my spirit at the gym along with my muscles to Williams’ The Shack. Don’t get me wrong, I keep a traditional book as my main ‘read,’ but I can still feed my literary thirst at times when traditional isn’t convenient.
Another technological advancement I’ve recently taken advantage of is the Kindle. I have a LOT of books and over the past couple of years I’ve done my fair share of traveling and, naturally, it can sometimes become cumbersome. And even if you’re taking a short trip on your local transportation, carrying around that new hardcover can feel like you’re lugging a brick that just screams ‘out of place.’ With an electronic e-reader, when I leave the house I don’t have to decide between having something to read and not needing to lug around extra weight. If you’re not yet committed to spending money on such a gadget and you have a smart phone, I’d suggest looking into downloading books there. It’s small, easy, and, out of everything, is the best for sneaking a read in during that particularly boring lecture or board meeting.
If writing were a shed, with all its tools and gadgets and techniques tucked inside, reading would be the bolts that hold it together. Reading is supposed to be fun, but it is important to remember that it is also a part of a writer’s job. From this comes a small note: finish your books! Even if it seems Homer Simpson could have done a better job (Twilight, anyone?), you can learn something from every one. To me, a book unfinished is just a lesson unlearned. And with all these things in mind, go out and do your job, a job that you should love or you wouldn’t be here. If you think of it like that, you can overcome any hurdles and, with a little use of the good ‘ole noggin, put aside the excuses and jump into the world of words.