Good morning, everyone and welcome to this edition of the YJBLiterary blog! Today, I will be exploring a topic that I’ve found to be crucial in my development as an author. It’s something that is oftentimes overlooked or forgotten amidst our busy schedules yet is vital in the writing process. It would seem like it’s common sense, however, you would be surprised at how many times we simply skip this aspect of our professional lives. I’m talking about the need to read.
Yes, the need to read. That word is emphasized for a reason. We need to do it. I understand that we live busy lives: kids, a day job, spouses, commitments, hobbies, etc. All these things stake a claim on our time and with only twenty-four hours in a day, we struggle to make ends meet at times. For the most part, we start off with good intentions, perhaps a goal of reading a certain number of books within the year. We get our reading material and get to accomplishing our task with vigor. But then life starts to get in the way. Obligations pile up, and priorities change, our books placed on the back burner. Eventually, dust begins to pile up as we tell ourselves that we will get back on track later on, perhaps during a vacation, when we have plenty of free time. For the average person that is a reasonable expectation, and one that can’t always be avoided. After all, we can’t control life’s twists and turns. For an author, however, we need to make sure that we set aside dedicated time each day to make it work.
This past weekend, I was in Tennessee visiting friends, and we were in the middle of an interesting discussion regarding our careers and our time management. One of my friends is a surgeon, and he was explaining to us how he wakes up everyday at 4:30 AM in order to get his day started and read up on the latest literature and studies. I also brought up the fact that I too am up by that time, working on my novels. Some of our friends were shocked at this until we explained our reasoning. For the surgeon, it was the only time of the day when his time wasn’t in demand, a time in which he could catch up on the latest techniques and studies. If he is not up to date on the latest happenings in medicine, he will fall behind, lost in a world that heavily relies on evidence based approaches and thorough research.
For me, it is similar. That is the only time of day where I’m not consumed by life’s demands and my creative expression is strongest. This allows me time later in the day to do my profession’s version of research: reading the latest and greatest in the literary world. While my idea of reading is nowhere near as impressive, it is nonetheless vital in my progression as an author. Reading books, from the classics of old to the newest superstars in the genre, helps me to develop my skills as an author. When I read, I try to do so from two angles. The first is as a lover of books. I am a huge bookworm, even as a young child, and a good book is better than any movie or TV show in my eyes. I want to be pulled into an elaborate world with complex characters, where my emotions are drawn out of me with each page. The second is as a critic. I try and step back every so often in order to look at the book with a critical eye. How is the pacing of the story? What is it that I like about the characters and their development? Does the author use a lot of description or adverbs? What are the key themes that resonate? It sounds tedious and a little over the top, I know, however, analyzing these things helps me to incorporate the things I like into my own novels while avoiding the things that I don’t.
So when do I find time to actually read? That also is a two-part answer. In the mornings, I make sure to get a good number of pages in during breakfast on my Kindle. I always enjoy the physical feel of a book or Kindle, so I get my fix during that time. The other is when I’m in my car driving to work or working out/cooking. I usually have a different book on audio that I will listen to, ensuring that no matter what, I find time during the day to read.
Reading is essential if you want to improve as an author. It is crucial that you hone your craft, not only through working on your own words, but by analyzing the words of other successful authors as well. Writing is not a solo career, despite popular opinion. We are a community that thrives on one another’s success. Make sure you get your words in, and until next time, keep imagining!