How To Be A Writer Who Reads

a woman reading while sitting on the year 2018As 2017 drew to a close, the Internet lit up with posts boasting how many books people had read in the year. Some were photos of meticulously written lists, others just a blanket statement: “I read sixty-six books!”

That was the one that got me: sixty-six books—in one year.

Were these children’s books? I wondered.

I turned to a new page in my to-do list and jotted down the books I could remember I’d read in the past year. And then I checked my Audible account—because audio books count, right?

My grand total? Sixteen books. That’s one-six. The age you get your driver’s license.

That other person could have filed for social security with her book count.

I glanced at the stack of books on my bedside table and noted that five of them had makeshift bookmarks sticking out the top. Three of those I had started two or three years previous. And I still wasn’t done.

The next thought that popped into my head was, what’s wrong with me? I love reading! Why am I not reading more?

And then I remembered one little detail: I’ve been writing a book.

Not that that’s an excuse. And yet it’s an important factor to consider. Reading is a vital part of any writer’s life. Be it for inspiration, learning new prose, becoming familiar with why certain grammar techniques sound better on the page, or just for the escapism fare from your own ideas.

And yet when forced to make a choice between spending one hour reading and one hour writing, the decision is simple: spend it writing.

That’s what I’d done all year: set aside time for writing. Excepting the audiobooks, three of the books I’d completed had been for a yoga teacher-training program and the three that had been for “leisure” were actually my attempts at finding a comparison title for my own novel.

Sadness and doubt crept into my mind. I was failing at one of my favorite past times. And I refused to believe that reading and writing had to be mutually exclusive!

By chance, I’d just signed up for an online learning platform called Mindvalley and the next morning in my inbox was a video (http://www.emresanli.com/video/?id=ll2C2J6Q3SY) about reading faster! According to the man in the video, Jim Kwik, the CEO and founder of Kwik Learning, the average number of words in a book is 64,000, and the average person reads 200 words per minute. By his calculation, if you set aside forty-five minutes a day for reading, you could finish one book per week.  

Hallelujah! The answer I was looking for dropped into my lap!

Of course, fifty-two books per year still seemed a bit ambitious, but this tangible breakdown of time was the first step in factoring reading into my schedule.

I decided that I would set aside forty-five minutes just before bed for reading. This would give my mind a way to wind down instead of staring at a computer screen. I could still write a bit before that forty-five minutes, or I could move my writing time to when I woke up.

Within a month, I was able to finish one of my “in-progress” books and get halfway through another. Not quite a book a week, but I was also able to achieve my weekly writing goals.

So let’s break this down:

Let’s say you allot three hours per day to writing. Of those three hours, forty-five minutes—or twenty-five percent of your writing time—would go to reading. By that same calculation, if you allot ten hours per week to writing, two and a half hours would go to reading. While this isn’t getting you to fifty-two books a year, it’s allowing you some time for reading without compromising too much writing time.  

You can apply this math to any amount of writing time that works for your week or month. For me, it’s about making reading just as deliberate as I make writing.

And with that I leave you with a Confucius-style quote to ponder:

“To be a good writer, you have to read; and to be a good reader, you have to read.”

Wouldn’t you agree?

Melissa Bloom is a writer, writing coach, and certified yoga instructor who is passionate about exploring the connection between productivity and wellness. As the founder and director of the Mindful Writer, Melissa has developed targeted writing tools and techniques that help people develop a sustainable writing practice to accomplish their writing goals without burning out. Melissa has a background in film, animation, and creative writing. She travels often, learns daily, and attends workshops, trainings, and conferences in a continued effort to hone the crafts of writing and living well.

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/3039802/