Over the past couple of years I’ve morphed from an avid fiction reader to a reader mainly of non-fiction. Not even creative non-fiction, but business non-fiction and text books. While every business owner should be reading about business and actually reading one’s school textbooks is an excellent idea, the fact that my love of fiction has been sacrificed makes me quite disheartened. I remember the time when I regularly finished two books a week. I was commuting on public transportation at the time and reading made the 90 minute one-way commute seem considerably shorter. When I moved and replaced the long commute with a shorter drive I still read a lot – at least one book a week.
This is a photo of my Reading Pile in 2007. I remember taking the photograph for a Realism project at school. I’m not sure why I have one book that is the wrong way around but it looks like a software text book so can be ignored for purposes of this review. An interesting thing to note is that only 3 of the 11 books in the pile are fiction books. This must have been when the change-over to reading non-fiction accelerated. I was working full time and in school part time and I still managed to read all of the fiction books in the pile.
I have the following in my current Reading Pile:
- Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology (school textbook)
- The Lean Startup (business how-to book)
- Fiction First Aid (editing how-to book)
While I don’t find reading textbooks easy (does anyone?) I do find them interesting. Likewise, business books always contain some nugget of information that is pertinent to me and my business. But this kind of reading is not the relaxing, stimulating and enjoyable experience that fiction reading used to be. I’m not reading for fun anymore.
I honestly can’t even remember the last book I read for pleasure. I’m not even thinking of the last book that sucked me in and didn’t let me go until I’d reached the last page. I’m talking about a book that I read simply for the joy of reading. I can recall the day I graduated from the children’s library to the adult library and read my way through the genre’s – every western, romance, science-fiction, mystery, and adventure I could get my hands on. Then I discovered paperbacks and repeated the cycle. I would read every western I could find until I grew saddle-weary and switched to romance. When plucky heroines and dashing heroes started to bore me I would switch to mystery and read every mystery I found until blood soaked visions danced in my head. Then I would read about distant planets, starships and humanoid aliens until dystopian dreams haunted me and I would head back to the American West for more down to earth adventure.
Where did that avid reader disappear to? I miss the joy that a good book can provide. The feeling of connectedness, of possibility and of wonder.
But more than that, this lack of fiction reading is adversely affecting my creativity. I have discovered that there is a direct correlation between the amount of fiction I read and the number of new ideas I have. The less I read, the lower the level in my once-endless bucket of inspiration. The drier the creative well.
Case in point: I planned to enter a fiction competition run by Glimmer Train in April. They even provided a subject – Family Matters. When I used to read voraciously, I would have come up with too many ideas and the problem would have been to choose the most interesting one. But this time I tried the techniques that used to work when ideas were elusive – staring into space, eating a rich desert just before bed time, polishing off a whole bar of dark chocolate with hazelnut. Not all at the same time of course – and keeping the chocolate in check (not). But – nothing. Nada. Niks. Nul. Zero. Zilch. Zip. The two meager one line ideas that dripped out fizzled as soon as they entered my conscious thought.
This has to change. First off, I’ve ruled out the obvious excuses for not reading:
- “I don’t have time to read.” I have time. All I have to do is not watch TV during lunch and I will have at least forty minutes to read for pleasure. Of course, I’ve been sucked in to another TV series and am watching from the beginning (Mad Men this time).
- “I don’t read when I write.” Well, I do and anyway, I’m not writing at the moment, I’m in the editing phase. And even if I was writing my reading interests are eclectic enough that I could read in any genre if I thought that reading in my genre would be distracting.
- “I’m too busy.” Same excuse as “I don’t have time”. Try another one.
- “I can’t find anything good to read.” Not valid. I have a pile books I bought because I wanted to read them. I have 16+ books in my To Read list on Good Reads. I have recommendations from friends and peers.
Untangling the deeper psychological issues of why I’m not making the time to read is going to take more time than I have today. While I go sit in a corner, eat chocolate and indulge in some serious introspection, let me ask you a couple of questions:
- What are you reading? What is on your TBR pile?
- Do you read when you are writing? And if so, in the same genre or not?
- What tips and tricks do you have for making time to read?
I look forward to hearing what you have to say about this, because all writers are first and foremost readers.