"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." -Vladimir Nobokov

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Making Time to Read

Reading is medicine. It is a way to loose yourself after a long day, or ground yourself when everything feels like it's up in the air. Readers know this, and so do writers. But sometimes, such a simple act can feel like a waste of time. When asked, "What did you do today?" I sometimes feel ashamed of saying that I read a book. How could I have not done anything productive? I could have worked on homework, or called a friend, or studied for the PSAT. Sometimes it's easy to forget just how valuable reading can be.

But I'm not going to lecture you on the merits of reading. With the speed at which our lives move, even those of us who realize its importance have a hard time finding a minute, much less an afternoon, to sit down with a good book. Always, I hear other writers say, "Make time to write every day." Well, I say, make time to read, too. 

Here are some ideas to help you do just that:

1. Keep your books in one place. Not all your books, of course. Just the ones you're reading at the moment. Try to make it a place that you go often, like on a table next to your favorite armchair, or on the floor by your bed. Few readers can resist a lonely book begging to be picked up and savored.
Tip: Don't keep your books near your workspace, or it will be too tempting to stop what you're doing and read all afternoon. That is one instance where reading is a time waster!

2. Pick one to carry with you. Some people find it hard to wait until evening, when they're at home in their favorite armchair, to read. Or maybe they get home late and can barely make it through a page before falling asleep. If thats the case, then try carrying your book with you. If you have a Kindle or other electronic reading device then you have it easy. I, personally, am a fan of the "real thing," but maybe I'm just old fashioned. Heck, I still write on a typewriter! Anyway, if you have a spare moment, pull out your book and indulge yourself. You'll be surprised by how much more you read when your book is readily accessible whenever you have a moment of down time.

3. Limit the number of books you read at once. I know, easier said than done. Still, if you have 12 books going at once, you may spend more time deciding which ones to read than actually reading them. I try to limit my number to two or three, which I've found to be a pretty good balance.

4. Keep a book journal. Like me! You can buy ones specifically for books, or you can simply choose a regular notebook, but the important thing is to keep a record of the books you read and what you thought of them. This, while slightly more time consuming, is a great way to make reading feel less like wasted time, and more like enrichment to your life and your writing (which it is). Not only will this make you want to make more time for reading, but the end result is a record of every book you've read. And who doesn't want to that?

5. Don't feel guilty! Don't feel bad about not finishing a book, or having to put it down because it's just not speaking to you. (Kristan Hoffman wrote a great post about this on Writer Unboxed.) Beating yourself up about your reading habits will just make the whole experience less enjoyable, hence defeating the purpose, which is to read more.

Well, I hope this was helpful! I'm going to go follow my own advice now and sit down with Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth. If you'd like you know what else I'm reading, you can always look in the side bar to the right. Enjoy!


  1. Laura,
    It's so funny we both wrote about reading this weekend. I hope you're enjoying Unaccustomed Earth. I've read some of her work and been to one of her readings. She's wonderful. Are you liking it?

  2. Haha, yeah! I'm only halfway through the first story in Unaccustomed earth, I'm really enjoying it so far! The language is so simple, yet so powerful. In answer to the question you posed in your post, I must say that I see all books as pleasure reading, even those that teach you how to be a better writer. (I really liked Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones) But also, I think I subconsciously analyze fiction as I read, noting what I like and don't like about the writing. Does that make it work? I don't think so, because I still enjoy it. But maybe thats just me :)

  3. 1) Thank you so much for the link love!

    2) GREAT tips. It took me, like, a decade to realize this stuff. And it's still hard for me to remember sometimes. (But the Kindle helps me to always have a book on hand when I'm out and about!)

    3) I LOVE Unaccustomed Earth! And Jhumpa Lahiri in general. Definitely a writing idol of mine.

  4. thank you for the great tips. Reading is very important and fun, however time consuming.

  5. They should teach these tips in schools; reading is my best friend.

  6. Thanks for the great tips Laura!
    I soooo love your blog...great work!

    Take care
    Short Poems