Several years ago, I created and analyzed four years of submission spreadsheets – time of year, average length, genres, and markets – in order to improve my fledgling part-time freelance career. Then, I looked at how I spent my non-writing time, and made a startling discovery: The years I read more, I wrote more. The more I wrote, the more I submitted and the more I published. The year I made the most submissions – just under 100 while working a full-time job – I read more than 100 books.
Before this discovery, I always thought that reading took away from writing time. For some people, it might. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron advises a week of reading deprivation to jump start creativity in blocked artists. But for me, the act of reading propels me to write. I agree with Stephen King in On Writing – that in order to be a writer you must “read a lot and write a lot.” How much is a lot? I try to read at least one book a week, often more. Here are eight reasons I read as a writer:
1. Pleasure: to balance the upsetting and stressful moments of freelancing
2. Research: to dig deeper into a story
3. Instruction: to learn how to improve my writing or how to perform related tasks, like time management and marketing
4. Examples: to get a sense of style, tone, length, and subjects for new markets
5. Comparison: to see how far I’ve come – and how far I have to go
6. Inspiration: to feel renewed and excited about current and future projects
7. Work: to write reviews of assigned titles
8. Bribery: to reward myself for finishing writing assignments!
Read more, write more. It isn’t always easy with a full life, but the results are worth it.
Michelle Mach is a freelance writer and former librarian in Colorado. She has published many essays, poetry, short stories, and articles in a variety of publications, most recently in Underwired, Best of Stringing, and The Ultimate Teacher. She is currently reading books about cowboys as background for a mystery short story. Read more about Michelle at http://www.michellemach.com.