Reading instead of, or in addition to, writing

My post last Friday began with, I don’t have time to write… or do I? Silly question. If we’re novelists, we make time, because our passion for storytelling drives us to get the words out.

But what about reading? If we’re writers, making time to write can be challenging enough. Who has time to read? At a workshop a writing colleague said she crammed her writing into isolated moments of busy days and evenings, and there were absolutely no other free moments left. If she chose to read, she wouldn’t be able to write.

My thought is, if you aren’t reading, and reading extensively, you probably aren’t much of a writer anyway. Sorry, I know that’s blunt, but that’s how I feel, and I’m not alone.

On Jessica Morrell’s website she has a column entitled, Reading and the Writing Life in which she says, The only way to become a writer (and I’m paraphrasing Stephen King and many others here) is to read a lot and write a lot. Reading is part of your job; in fact, it’s a huge part of your job. I’m writing on this topic today because I keep meeting writers who are writing fiction or other genres, but don’t read it. In fact, I meet writers who don’t read much at all. They claim they don’t have time. I don’t get it. You’ve got to make the time. Reading like a writer is living like a writer.”

I admit to the luxury of having more free time than many people. I read every moment I can, yet the pile waiting on my TBR shelf is constantly growing instead of diminishing. There’s never enough time to read everything I’d like to, but I keep trying.

I’m the last person who ought to offer advice to another writer struggling with the time dilemma (although I’ve occasionally tried), so I’m asking for your input:

  • On average, how much do you usually read?
  • What genre do you read? And is it the genre you write?
  • When do you do most of your reading?
  • How do you ‘make time’ for reading?


 I hope you’ll join me here on Friday for an interview with author Jody Hedlund
as we celebrate the publication of her second novel and give away a copy of it.



Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

22 thoughts on “Reading instead of, or in addition to, writing

  1. You make some great points about writers needing to read as well, because they are two parts of the same whole. I consider myself a writer of nonfiction, via my blogs mostly. I’ve recently re-committed to reading more each day. My favorite material these days is both nonfiction (biographies and political works), and fiction (mysteries, historical fiction, and novels like One Day or something by Nicholas Sparks). I guess it’d be more fashionable to report that I “devour” things like Tolstoy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the like, but that wouldn’t really be true. 😉

  2. I struggle with the time factor. I’m still working 25+ hours a week at a day job, managing (if you can call it that) a house and husband, and trying to write, speak, and keep up with some other commitments. I do my reading in spurts and jerks. I just recently purchased a discounted volume of THE COLOR PURPLE. I’d never read it, nor have I seen the movie. At the same time, I purchased a historical fiction, THE PROUD MAN. Both are old books. I devoured them in a weekend. And that will have to hold me for a while. Gotta get back to my own writing.

  3. Yes, I agree totally , Carol!!! I read every bit as I can and am constantly picking up a book,during the day, where ever I am!! At night , before I go to sleep, for coffee time or any time I am not doing chores and errands. All kinds of books and especially every day the Word of God[ kjv] This is what a writer does, to learn more and more and to keep improving themselves!! We are never done reading…

  4. I honestly, before I started writing a book. read at least 24 books a year. This past year I read 6. It was a crazy year with editing and all that comes with publishing. What I did read was 100’s of blog posts. I am truly this year while I am writing book #2 try to read at least 12 books. It does without a doubt help the writing process.

  5. Good morning to all. I’m enjoying these comments and glad to hear that everyone is reading to some extent. Judith, that’s not my TBR pile in the photo, just a handful of books grabbed from the closest bookshelf and magazines that arrived recently in the mail. I suppose it would have made more sense to grab the TBR pile, but these were closer. 😉

  6. Great topic.

    •On average, how much do you usually read? Probably 4-6 books per month.

    •What genre do you read? And is it the genre you write? Anything but pure romance, but mostly juvie lit. I write juvie lit, so maybe that has something to do with it : )

    •When do you do most of your reading? I sneak spare moments on my Kindle when waiting to pick up the kids, etc…those few minutes that would otherwise be wasted. However, I often will spend a few days when I’m feeling stifled in my writing to read several books at a time. It’s freeing to me.

    •How do you ‘make time’ for reading? I don’t make it, it just happens, but it’s a routine that has worked well for m over the years and I don’t plan to change it anytime soon.

  7. You are absolutely right my friend… Writers have to also be Readers—and I don’t think it matters what you read (well, maybe :D) but reading a lot and writing a lot is how we grow …a lot!
    Great advice!

  8. For me, I read during my spare moments when I can’t concentrate on writing (say, the kiddos are needing me to keep one eye on them): waiting for the water to boil for dinner, carpool line, after they’re in bed and I’m too tired to write. Maybe an hour a day. More if my husband lets me have the afternoon “off” and I can curl up in the study and read.

    (On a side note, I recently read a novel about a family where everyone carries around books ALL THE TIME and reads. The middle daughter tells a boyfriend that she reads “a couple hundred” books a year and they break up as a result because he just can’t understand.)

    Genre: usually literary, women’s fiction, some suspense, some historical. It must be well-written or I don’t finish it. Since I write women’s fiction, I guess it makes sense to read it!

    I also carry a small, cheap notepad and write down unusual words or phrases that I find in books. It helps my vocabulary and shows me how other authors play with language to create their novels.

  9. Carol, I carry a Kindle in my purse. It’s amazing how many odd moments I get to read. The other day I accompanied my husband to the eye doctor just to pick up his new glasses. An hour later… ARGH, except I was reading so it wasn’t as frustrating as it could have been. I keep a journal of the books I read, just the name of the author and the book. It’s fun to look back through and see what I’ve read in the past ten years. Thank you for the great Post.

  10. I read one to two hours in the evening and in bed before the lights go out.

    Currently writing a historical about a Highland Pioneer in 1864. My favorite historical series are those by Diana Gabaldon, starting with “Outlander,” and Sara Donati’s series beginning with “Into the Wilderness.” Some mysteries, Harlan Coban type, literary as in the Historian and The Swan Thieves, historical romance, no matter what era. Thorn Birds, Harry Potter, Adventures of Tom Sawyer. “A sudden Country” by Karen Fraser. From her I learned that description contained within action is much more engaging.

    I don’t care for literary novels that explore the human condition without character development or change. I may always remember the book, but it will never cease to leave an unpleasant feeling during recall. There are many stellar romance novelists, and I do like the guaranteed satisfying ending.

    I keep my evenings free to read. Most of the time. Thanks to your blog, I will schedule reading time as well. Great post.

  11. Careann, what a wonderful question to ask. At this point in figuring out who I am as a writer, namely where I fit in, reading is front and center. It probably doesn’t make sense, but it’s my truth. Does that mean I’m not a serious writer? Whatever it means, reading has set me free, and for that I’m grateful. Feeling like I should give you a virtual hug for this post. I hope you’re well.

  12. I LOVE to read! My reading starts out in the AM with time in the Word of God. I spend a couple of hours with my mother each day. Part of that time, we both sit a read. Later, we’ll share the stories and compare notes. Usually, I can read a book a week.

  13. Okay…you know I am not a writer per trade but love to drop a few cents in now and then. (not sure what this is worth in Canadian currency now either but know its lower than it has been)
    I read quite a bit. It is a function of what I do and how I am successful as a speaker, in sales and in my industry.
    I usually read non fiction as I love to see how others find answers not just in business, but in life. What is their story, makes them tick and drives them good or bad.
    Among this I usually find ideas I can apply in my own life and profession.

    All that said, I have to believe it would be the same for a writer. Even though you are looking at other works, inspiration and ideas would have to come just from being engaged.

    Great piece Carol!

  14. •On average, how much do you usually read? 2 books per week (I read fast) sometimes 3
    •What genre do you read? Thrillers,some YA, Biographies, some horror, political “stuff” some “classics”, history
    And is it the genre you write? No – I write YA, (but I’m expanding -shhhhhhh thatza seeeecret)
    •When do you do most of your reading? Pharmacy drive thru, long traffic lights. Always have a Kindle and a paperback with me – whatever time I can grab
    •How do you ‘make time’ for reading? I dunno. Just grab whatever time I can – helps me decompress from the daily pressure cooker (which is starting to finally kill me – I think)

    Good questions, Carol.

  15. I love the diversity of what each of us reads. It’s important to read extensively in the genre we choose to write, to know what’s popular and to understand how our genre differs from others. But I believe it’s also important to read books in other genres, too, ones written by good authors, so that we come to recognize good writing.

    1. Oh, and I like that idea of carrying around a Kindle in your purse. I don’t have one (just have the Kindle app on my laptop) and my purse isn’t big enough anyway… but it sounds like a good excuse to get one, and a bigger purse. 🙂

      1. A Kindle is well worth the initial investment! Books are so much cheaper if you download the Kindle version, and they have loads of fantastic free content too. All the classics are free…things like Treasure Island, Jane Eyre, etc.

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