If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”—Stephen King, “On Writing”
Five years into my reading improvement effort, I look for time and ways to devour other people’s stories and ideas. I’ve upped my reading time to at least two hours every day, and some days much more. I remember and talk about what I’ve read. Best of all, I’m inspired to write—and write better.
If you want to be a writer who reads, here are four ways to make progress.
- Measure your efforts.
Though I’m diligent about tracking billable time for my consulting business, I’ve never jumped on the bandwagon of productivity apps to track and manage the rest of my time
I’m content to tick off a few reading tasks each day and monitor book reading throughout the year.
- Daily: Every weekday I read The Skimm email, listen to The Daily podcast, and consume at least one well-written article or book chapter. Weekends are free-form. I might read some poetry, take in a few chapters of a novel, or listen to an audiobook while folding laundry.
- Yearly: Last year I started participating in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Simply set a goal to read X number of books in a year, then track progress alongside 3,000,000 other readers. Whenever I discover, buy, or finish a book, I update my Goodreads profile.
- Read what feeds you.
- Keep reading at hand—and reach for it.
I have one book on my desk, a few on the ottoman by my comfy evening chair, and a hefty stack on my nightstand.
I still have to choose to read. Making time to read means bypassing dozens of temptations on my phone. When caught waiting, in lulls between appointments, or while avoiding some other thing to do, I must resist the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Words with Friends. The struggle is real, but I’m winning (most days).
- Expand your definition of “reading.”
My objective is not to spend time gazing at words on the page; it is to be immersed in stories and ideas. I want to be captivated by other writers’ reasoning, insights and imagination. All this is possible not just through reading but by hearing audiobooks and podcasts as well.
I’ve found that listening frees me from the page. When I hear a story or commentary, I can be fully involved in the message. I might notice inventive word combinations and rhythms; I might wonder how the author chose this order of ideas over another. I am free of that distracting internal editor who just wants to gripe about grammar, fix typos and scrutinize page layout.
These are things that the authors really need you to know about reading. Read because we need it. It also relaxes your body and mind. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s start reading from now on!