I’m a terrible reader. Outside of being in school I’ve probably read less than 10 books in my entire life. There are various reasons for this and all of them are lame excuses. I’ve always put it off and deemed it not important. I found that it takes too long and there are too many possibilities of wasted time. All of that is just a different way of saying it was easier to just not read. The only catch is that I love books.
A bookstore is like a sanctuary to me. Whenever I see one I get the same feeling as when I used to see the Toys’r’us sign in San Francisco when we’d drive in. This was the closest one to us at the time, a good 45 minutes away and even if we weren’t going in I loved seeing it and knowing of all of the possible toys in there to play with. When I see a bookstore I have an urge to pull into the parking lot and wandering in for an hour of four. The volume is overwhelming. The variety is incredible. I think if I had a day to play in a bookstore I’d have a hard time figuring out where to start, but to just have all of those stories an arm’s reach away would be euphoric.
I’ve never thought as to why that is though. Why do I love books and not read? I don’t hate reading so its not like the act of sitting down to read a book is so off putting that I detest doing it. I love books and I don’t hate reading. It should be a simple one plus one equals read, you idiot. When I start to question is when the excuses coming marching out and sounding off. First and foremost is that it takes too long. I’m sure this is an excuse of a number of people who don’t read too. However I’ve never thought of it like this before, when you read a book its like binge watching a show. Yeah, you could read a chapter and it would be the equivalent of a half hour sitcom or hour long drama or you could binge-read half the book on a Friday night and in a few hours you’d have “read” half a season instead of 3 shows. Reading does not take too long when you’re comparing it to the same medium.
My next go to reason why I don’t want to read is that I would always say that I don’t want to waste my time on a bad book. Reading a book is a big time investment from start to finish. Is it though? We’ve already determined that its really no different than watching TV and may even be faster if you break it down. (Don’t worry, I’m not kidding myself by saying “We.” I don’t think I’m here trying to convince other people to read. I’m just here convincing myself that I need to read.) So committing to a book may actually be better because you don’t have to wait until spring to finish it. If its thrilling or funny or just well written enough that you want to finish it in a day that’s up to you. If it isn’t any good, well, you can always just stop reading it. If you ended up losing $30 on it that would suck but you’d probably do a little research first to find out if it was a book you would like. There is the only difference between the two, TV/movies you can drop with little monetary cost while books might have a slight annoyance of monetary cost.
Then there’s always the classic “why read when you can just watch the movie/TV show.” Well I’ve pretty much covered that off in the topics above aside from books being better. I don’t think there has ever been an instance where someone said the book wasn’t as good as its alternative. That isn’t even taking into consideration that it would help me as a writer.
As a want to be writer I’m always worried about being unoriginal. I always read that it was good for a writer to read but dug my heels in on the no reading policy because I didn’t want to be influenced by anyone. I wanted to be my own voice and not have other writers ideas seep into my head. I thought if I really did want to be a writer maybe it would be good that I didn’t read and then I wouldn’t have to worry about accidentally taking someone else’s ideas.
In my 11th grade high school English/economics class (yes, weird combo) we had a writing assignment to combine an economic idea into a story. I had written an idea for supply and demand that very loosely resembled “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” and received a C on it due to my lack of originality. I had mixed emotions because I had never even seen nor read the book/movie and was ticked off because I came up with a great premise on my own and was accused of stealing it. I was never a good reader but I think this moment may have strengthened my anti-reading bias for a good long while after it happened. However being so shockingly unprepared to be a writer in basic skills I think reading could really help me in structure and rhythm. I can see how award winning and popular author’s write and not try to emulate them but see how its done and try to build off of that in my own direction.
So I picked up a book last week and started reading it. Oddly enough my plan for a chapter a day isn’t going to work exactly as I had it planned out because this book doesn’t follow the normal chapter formula that most books do. “The Blind Assassin” by Margaret Atwood has the story broken up into what seem like chapters but they are very long with sub headers in between them. I’m going with the idea that those sub headers are the chapters and I try to do one or two of them a day. I’m not quite 100 pages into the book yet, which totals over 600 so I’m not quite ready to discuss it with any significance, but I plan to. All of these plans and ideas formulating to help my writing. So far its gotten me to write on consecutive days (minus yesterday) for the first time in about a year. Its a good a start as any.
If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.
– Stephen King