The Best Thing a Writer Can Do…

My to-read pile.
My to-read pile.

…is read.

But.

As most of you who read this blog regularly know, I am on month 19 of my concussion. And while I have been doing better lately, reading has been one of the things that still results in a screaming migraine, for a couple of reasons:

  1. I tend to read at night and after spending a day on the computer writing, I’m usually already on the verge of a headache.
  2. The lighting in my room isn’t great, and my eyes get tired quickly.
  3. I’m really bad at stopping. Standard operating procedure for concussion migraines is recognizing when you’re pushing yourself too far, and stopping immediately. But when it comes to books, I “just one more chapter” myself way beyond my comfort zone, and right into migraine town.  Worse, the more often I do it, the better chance I have of setting my concussion recovery back – and there’s no way I’m going back to round-the-clock migraines and not being allowed on the computer.
But last week I was knocked down with a stomach flu, and once I was well enough to sit up, I decided to dive into some of the new books I’d just bought (you’d think not being able to read would stop me from buying books, but, yeah, no).
I read two books last week. After 19 months of nothing, it was the most amazing thing ever.
Almost all the writing advice I’ve ever read includes the phrase: read, read, read. And I’ve never doubted it. Obviously the way to learn story craft, tropes (overdone and expected), and general structure is by reading the kinds of books you want to write. Seeing what works and what doesn’t. Seeing what’s been done.
But what I didn’t expect was how much reading was going to inspire me to write. Those books lit a fire in my brain. Books stretch my imagination in ways that tv doesn’t, and after just two books, my head was swimming with new story ideas.
Now that I’m (pretty much) recovered from the flu, I have to figure out how to squeeze reading into my daily life again – without triggering migraines and setting back my concussion.
Maybe it means setting an alarm, and sticking to it. Maybe it means investing in better book lights. Maybe it means trying to squeeze some reading in during daylight hours. But some way or another, I need to find a way to read again. My writing depends on it.
What about you? Ever had to go on a reading hiatus? Have you noticed how reading affects your writing? Let me know in the comments.
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2 comments

  1. I’ve more than doubled my reading by listening to audio books while driving back and forth to work. It’s not a long commute, but the chapters add up and I love the experience; almost like live theater drawing me into the story. Some books are much better performed than others, but the best ones are amazing and hearing the words gives a good sense of dialogue, rhythm, and sentence structure. As for paperbound books, I agree that a strong light makes a big difference in how long I can comfortably read at night. Hope you are back to 100% soon and can keep up with your reading!

    • Thanks, Marcia. I keep meaning to try audiobooks, but I still haven’t found a medium (no tablet, no cd player) to play them on. Plus, it seems like it would be such a different experience from actually reading. One day…

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