Hi all! I know it’s been a minute. I was buried deep into NaNoWriMo, but today I’m here to talk about the other thing that’s been occupying my time lately.
I have always been a voracious reader. I devoured books as a child and would often leave the library with a stack of books piled so high they blocked my vision.
I read a little less in high school because my classes got harder, and then when I got to college, I stopped reading for fun almost altogether. Instead of getting through thirty or forty books a year, I was reading maybe five books I actually wanted to read. I was working nearly full time at a retail job I did not enjoy, I was working an internship, AND I was a full time student. An English major at that. Which meant most of my homework involved reading and writing.
Yet I always felt guilty. A small part of me knew that by not reading, I was hurting my chances of becoming an author. I’ve known since I was little reading often and reading widely is essential for developing craft. But I just couldn’t get myself to make the time. I won’t make excuses for myself. I know I could have—but I didn’t.
Over four years, I barely read for fun at all.
When I go back and look at old stories, it’s like I can see at time lapse of improvement in my writing. When I read furiously, my world building and my character crafting abilities increased drastically. When I stopped reading a lot but was writing a ton of academic essays in college, the technical aspects of my writing improved, yet my ideas didn’t. I wanted to read more, but it was so hard justifying it when I would be in class from 8am-2pm and then at work from 3pm-10pm. I’d come home and do homework, and then rinse and repeat.
Fast forward to April, when I graduated with my bachelor’s degree. It was a day of excitement…and intense relief. The stars aligned and I’d already been offered a job with a local nonprofit that I’ve come to love. I finished school, started working, and for the first time in my life has a set schedule. And I love it. I know a lot of people complain about the repetitive cycle of a 9 to 5 (or in my case, 8 to 4) but having a set schedule and a job I actually like has done wonders for my mental health.
I started writing on my lunch break and I found myself craving books again. And for the first time in forever, I had the time to read them!
I started tearing through books. Since April, I’ve read seventeen books, and my goal is to read at least five more in December. The results have been fantastic.
Reading furiously, frequently, and outside my genre has opened me up to a whole world of new ideas. More importantly, it’s helped me learn to set things aside. I finally shelved a novel that needed to be shelved, and started working on a new WIP I’ve fallen in love with.
Reading is so important for aspiring writers like myself. If I spend too long wrapped in the world of my own draft, it eventually distorts my sense of story and pacing. Absorbing the worlds of other authors that have multiple professionals tweak and pinch and fix them helps develop your sense for a story, which is vital for editing.
But most importantly, book binging makes me happy. I feel motivated and energized because they improve my mental health, which means my writing improves, too. Not to mention my friends and family have said I’m much more pleasant to be around…
I’ll never be a person that can read a book at leisure. I either DNF a book after twenty pages, or I sit down and read a 120,000 word novel in one night. (Looking at you, Forest of A Thousand Lanterns! I inhaled that book so fast it made me dizzy!) I read really fast, and I’ve come to love that this is my reading style.
I swallow entire stories whole before I have time to realize I’ve finished them, and I get to move on to the next book.
My latest binges were Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. None of these books made it more than a few days in my hands before I finished them. Each of them sparked a thousand ideas in me.
I didn’t realize how much I was aching for reading time. In just a week the boyfriend and I will be going to Jamaica for nine days and I am so psyched because I plan on spending a ton of time reading.
It feels so good to return to what I love: swallowing book after book and knowing there are always more amazing ones out there in the world.