Writers are repeatedly told that reading is just as important as writing. Reading good and bad works, reading long and short pieces, and reading outside your comfort level are all supposed to help, so long as you read actively, learning from what you read. I love hearing this advice, because I have been a voracious reader since a very early age. Even today, I am rarely without a book or magazine. I’ll leave clothes at home so I can pack books for a vacation. I’ll read while I brush my teeth. But lately I have found that reading has got in the way of my writing. Reading has become my new go-to procrastination habit.
I’m lucky enough to be able to read while on the subway. When I get home, I drop my bags, and put my book on a side table. When I’m ready to get to work, there’s my book calling to me. And it’s so easy to rationalize picking up that book: What happens next? Wasn’t I almost finished with that chapter? Don’t I need to return it to the library soon? Before I know it, it’s time to go to bed.
The rationalizations can be particularly compelling when I think about picking up a book on how to write. Surely my latest short story could benefit from a plotting or characterization review, right?
And so my word count starts to drop, and drop, and drop. If you subscribe to the theory that to become an expert at something, you must spend 10,000 hours practicing and performing the underlying acts, every time I choose reading over writing, I push that expert status further and further away. This is part of the reason why I started this website. If nothing else, it gets me writing every day, flexing those creativity muscles. I just need to be strong enough to choose writing over reading more often. After all, if I’m not writing, what business do I have calling myself a writer?
What about you? How do you procrastinate when you should be writing? How do you get back to writing?