I want to tell you a secret. Don’t be afraid, it won’t hurt you. No one will be arrested, though I have broken a rule.
I’m a bad reader.
No, I don’t mean I can’t read, or that I get caught up by words I don’t understand, I mean I don’t read very much. See? I mean bad rather than poor — I do know a little something about the language. No, my self-commentary and resultant disappointment are purely based on the lack of time I spend with my nose in a book (or, more accurately, pressed against the screen of my eReader).
Why is that a big deal, you ask? How is that breaking the rules?
One of the basics you will read almost everywhere about being a writer is that a writer needs to read: experience what others are doing; sop up the good stuff like a soft dinner roll taking care of the last of the turkey gravy; learn from the mistakes of others. Shouldn’t be a big deal, right? As a writer, one of the reasons we’re drawn to our craft in the first place is because some author(s) transported us to another world, another time, some one else’s life. We were swept away by J.R.R. Tolkien to Middle Earth and Rivendell, by Stephen King to Derry and Castle Rock; we felt the struggle of Scout and Jem; we were practically on that island when Piggy died. Don’t get me wrong, I love to read, I’m just not good at it.
Well, Bruce, if it’s something you need to do, why don’t you just do it?
I’d love to, but my issues are twofold:
1. Time. Most days, the only time I find to read is when I climb into bed at the end of my day. By then, I often only make it through a few pages before the book is slipping from my hand and I’m drooling on myself. And to make things more difficult, my wife is beta reading my second Icarus novel (“All Who Wander Are Lost” — keep your eyes open for it late summer), which is loaded on my Kobo, so I’m faced with a decision: my reading or her reading for me.
2. I am a writer. I don’t know if this is true of all writers, but I think I read a little differently than your average reader. Many a novel has been launched against a wall simply because the word “was” was used too many times on one page, or the writer used an abundance of exclamation points!! Not to mention poor plotting, thin characters and clichés. If I find myself at any point asking “how did this get published?” I stop reading. I have too many books in both my physical and digital libraries to waste my time on something I don’t love. I am especially impatient with poorly written books traditionally published by one of the Big 6. When I read a book, I want to think to myself at some time during my journey “I wish I wrote that.”
I’m trying, I really am. I don’t want Writers Digest to send the writer police to take away my laptop because I’m not meeting my authorly quota of words read per day. And I want to get better at my craft, which reading does for a writer like me. And I want to support my fellow independant authors, not just by downloading their books, but by reading them and providing reviews. The desire is there, it really is.
Now to do something about that time thing. And I might have to get my wife a Kindle.