Friday, January 23, 2009

Writing vs. Reading

We've all heard reading is as crucial to writing as sitting down at one's computer. And we know it's because we learn a whole lot about voice, style, flow, [insert something to be gained here], etc., when we dive into others' words.

But the two don't often overlap for me, like you'd think. Instead, I go through heavy phases of writing, whereas I read next to nothing. And then the flip side is, I'll become so entrenched in reading, I'll find myself a little distant from my writing.

I think maybe it's because I can get so slogged down in my writing, find myself stuck, and making the natural leap over to reading renews me. It's a way to rejuvenate my creativity, to spark my desire to produce something grand. By reading another book, I'm reminded Hey, I want to do that! And then... Hey, I CAN do that! leads to Now let me do it! It makes me better.

What about you? How does reading vs. writing work for you?

27 comments:

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

I'm a reader/writer. Guess you'd say I'm ambidexterous! Reading encourages me to write and writing encourages me to read! I keep a notebook next to my reading to jot down words, phrases and ideas that I transfer to my stories.

Rafael said...

I haven't read much in the last year, mainly because I focused on my writing. Maybe I'll get back to reading again once this phase is over.

Terri Tiffany said...

I'm just like that too Janna. I will go weeks without reading then when I do--I can't put the book down and it remotivates me to write something new.

thedomesticfringe said...

I like to read, but I find myself going through reading spurts. I'll read several book in a row and then take a break from reading (not because I'm writing).

-FringeGirl

Brian and Kelly said...

I've tried reading certian authors to learn about their flow, style, etc. like you said. Instead I get lost in the story and forget to pay attention!

Janna Qualman said...

Donna - I should say the same for me. I'm always jotting down and writing smallish things; it the bigger, lengthier stuff I can't seem to manage when deep in the throes of good fiction.

Rafael - Good for you! I mean, definitely get back to the reading, but keep on with the heavy writing, for sure.

Terri - It creates such a spark, don't you think?

FringeGirl - Maybe it's that we need to give our brains time to digest everything we read?

Kelly - Ah, and that's the sign of a terrific writer: When you get lost in the story. Of course, it's harder for writers to "get lost," because we often can't turn off our internal editor. I hope someday you'll get lost in my book! tee hee

Janna Qualman said...

PS. I'm really glad some "non-writers" are chiming in with their reading habits. Thank you!

Angie Ledbetter said...

I always have at least one book going, and usually a book of poetry too. Helping out with my mom (when she's napping), running carpool, etc., are good times to read. Reading in the tub is my fav. Def think reading influences our writing and desire to write.

Rachel Burton said...

Nope, can't do both. When I'm reading I'm not writing and vica versa, although the pros make me feel really guilty about that with their "You should ALWAYS be reading" mandates. But when I'm reading and not writing (like I am now), I'm reading obsesssively, so I like to think it balances out!

Kathryn Magendie said...

That makes sense to me~! I'm not sure how I used to do this - because I've formed a new "habit" that works very well for me. At night before sleep is when I do my reading...I got to bed most nights at least an hour before my usual bedtime, sometimes earlier if I can, and read and read until I know it's time to stop and sleep.

Usually what changes for me is WHAT I am reading, not how much - maybe if I'm working on my novel, I'll be reading short stories or essays....or a novel that is quite different from mine.

Melissa Marsh said...

I'm the same way. When I really get into my writing, I don't read nearly as much. But then again, if I am reading a really good book, my writing suffers because that's all I want to do is read. It's a darn catch-22 since reading also spurs me to write. :-)

WendyCinNYC said...

I read constantly. Every single day. But sometimes I have to change what I'm reading when I'm writing if its a really strong voice sneaking its way in to my own stuff.

Janna Qualman said...

Angie - Oh, how I miss reading in the tub! I did that most every night. Except that now, what with remodeling, we only have a shower. Baths are something my girls and I are really looking forward to again!

Rachel - And the "always write, every day" thing gets to me, because I have a young family that sometimes makes that impossible. Yeah, I know, I could get up at 4:30 every morning to write, but I really enjoy my sleep.

Kat - That makes a lot of sense, being careful not to read something along the same lines of what you're writing.

Melissa - It is! Cursed catch 22...

Wendy - I know what you mean about voice. I can get so caught up in a great one, that I want to emulate it. But that's when we have to take a step back to hear our own again.

I also want to say, it'll be easier for me to get both writing and reading done EACH day when both my kids are in school. Then, both will become part of my weekday "full-time" job, while the young'uns are learnin'.

Jessica said...

Hmm, your way is interesting. I may have done that a few times (I definitely go on reading binges). For the most part though, I do both on a consistent basis. I usually read outside while the kids play, since they're too little to be by themselves.

Sharla said...

I totally get inspired when I read. I just wish I had more time to do it. But every time I sit down to read, I get hit with guilt that I should be writing, so I can't enjoy it. Either that, or my husband has the TV blaring and I can't get into it.

I used to read all the time before I started writing...guess I have trouble multitasking??

Sharla said...

I commented before I read the other ones... so I had to add that I'm envious of you Angie that you get to read in the tub! I remember the last time I did that was about 14 years ago...when I was pregnant. LOL. Don't think I've had the chance since! And where Kathryn said she reads before bedtime, that's the only time I get to write. With the TV blaring... :) If I try to wait out my husband for silence, I don't make it, he's up till midnight.

I've thought about putting a book in my car and trying to catch time here and there...

Janet said...

I tend to go through phases too, partly because all the cross-border shuttling keeps rearranging my schedule. Right now I want to finish edits so bad that reading is not a priority.

Melanie Avila said...

Reading tends to jump-start my writing as well. It inspires me to top whatever I'm reading, or write a story that moves another person as much as what I'm reading moves me.

But I promise I won't write YA anytime soon.

Ang said...

Same for me here Janna. I think reading someone elses work helps you to understand that we CAN do it too. I am a huge fan of Nicholas Sparks. I am currently reading "Nights in Rodanthe". As I sit and read it, I notice some similarities in his writing and mine. This book is not full of dialogue (I know that is important) but he makes it work. I struggle with dialogue and because I have noticed the similarities...I realized that I too can be successful (hopefully) just as Mr. Sparks. At least it gives me hope.

Wonderful blog.

Jen said...

Hmmm. Good question. I read a lot...something every day. But what it is that I'm reading changes. Sometimes, I'll go on a non-fiction binge, or binge on one genre or even a single author.

I do try to read and write at the same time, because I do find it invigorating, creatively speaking. But I avoid reading fiction if I'm actively dumping on my own skills...it just depresses me.

Good post, Janna!

Janna Qualman said...

Jessica - Me, too! Especially in the summertime, when my girls are playing on our jungle gym. I always take a book out with me.

Sharla - I don't believe it. Every woman is a natural-born multi-tasker. ;) And taking one in the car is good. I like to read in the few minutes before school lets out.

Janet - You're close! You'll do it!

Melanie - You know, now that you mention it, you'd probably do really well with YA! I think your voice would suit it.

Ang - I love Sparks, too. He seems a love him or hate him author, but I've really liked everything I've read - especially the older stuff.

Janna Qualman said...

Hi, Jen! You sneaked a comment in there... ;)

You bring up a good point: Even if I don't have a book I'm thick in the middle of, there's a magazine or two laying around. Sometimes I just prefer the light format of a magazine - especially when I am heavy into my writing.

Michele said...

Honestly, for me, I struggle to make time to read stuff other than blog posts. :-)

*smiles*
Michele

MichaƩle said...

Well, lately, I have had the attention span of a gnat, so neither one is working for me! I miss my reading time and the writing has been suffering as well.

Melanie Avila said...

Janna, that's funny you say that because I peeked at my nano novel last night and was reminded that my favorite POV is the teenage girl. Also, while reading Twilight I kept thinking that I have similar setups with them. I suppose it's something to consider...

Or are you just saying I'm really immature? :P

Janna Qualman said...

Michele - Hi! Hope everything is well for you.

MichaƩle - Oh, no! I hope you can get back into one or both soon. :)

Melanie - LOL! Wouldn't you like to know... ;) But seriously, the more I think about it, the more it seems to fit. More than anything, because you'd be that cool, relatable kind of YA writer.

Turkey Lurkey said...

Im with you Janna. I take reading and writing in turns. :)