I fell in love with the printed word as soon as I learned how to decode it. Flicka, Ricka and Dicka, Carolyn Haywood, Louisa May Alcott and Charles Dickens were childhood friends. In high school, I discovered science fiction and fantasy, Ayn Rand and Hermann Hesse, romance novels and Gone with the Wind. I was wild and free – on the inside, at least. If you knew me back in the day, you might have called me as a bookworm. But I wouldn’t have been offended. I would have simply shrugged my shoulders and moved on to the next chapter.
But college and young adulthood, especially those years when my children were small, left me little time for free reading. More recently, I have spent most of my free moments working on my own novel and reading nonfiction selections on the subject of writing craft. Digging into a juicy novel seemed like a decadent pleasure, right up there with dark chocolate and red wine.
But is it?
In his great book On Writing, author Stephen King says:
The real importance of reading is that it creates an easy and intimacy with the process of writing; one comes to the country of the writer with one’s papers and identification pretty much in order. Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mind-set, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor.
Those are strong words but they ring true. How can I call myself a romance writer if I don’t read books by a variety of authors in that genre? How can I be fresh and original if I don’t know what else is out there?
Since the beginning of the year, my goal has been to finish a book a week. Here are a few tricks I use to carve out extra hours for reading.
1. Listen to audio books. Download the Audible app and listen to books on your iPhone, Android or mp3 player. That way, you can “read” while driving your car or working out at the gym. With over 85,ooo books available, there is something for everyone. And books in the public domain are free.
2. Carry a book with you wherever you go. It beats the heck out of reading a two-year-old magazine in the waiting room at the dentist or staring into space while your child is at a music lesson. Tuck a small paperback into your handbag; better yet, invest in a Kindle or Nook and you will have a small library with you wherever you go.
3. Read a book with a partner. Knowing you will discuss it with someone provides added depth to the reading experience.
4. Join a book study group. Or start one. I would have never made it through Jane Austen’s novels without the accountability provided by my little book study group. And I started an online book club on my personal blog so that I would finally get around to To Kill A Mockingbird. I am enjoying the community on Goodreads, too. It is fun to watch that virtual collection of finished books grow.
5. Read what you love. If you truly enjoy what you are reading, you are more likely to return to it and you will probably get through it faster. And you won’t be arrested by the book police if you decide to abandon a book because you simply don’t like it.
Describe your reading habits. What was the last novel you finished? Do you recommend it? Why or why not?