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I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Finding Time to Read

I have a crazy long TBR list. Don't believe me? Check this:

I use Goodreads to keep track of all the books I want to read, but I also have stacks of physical books, and my nook is filled with purchased books, library books, and manuscripts from awesome writer friends.

I love reading. Love it so much that every time I start a book, I'm in danger of losing sleep, missing appointments, and not feeding the children. I'm only sorta kidding.

But I have a problem: reading takes up the same real estate in my brain that I use for writing (note: this only applies to fiction. I can read non-fiction and write fiction. I can read fiction and write non-fiction, i.e. blogs. I just can't cross the streams and read and write fiction at the same time.) I've never been one of those people that could read more than one book at a time, either (in spite of my Goodreads list, which thinks I'm reading three books).

As a writer, this is a handicap I need to overcome.

I recently read Hello Blog, Are You There? It's Me Writer by Kristen Lamb (non-fiction! So, I can keep writing). She says there are three main components to a writer's life:
* Reading/Watching Movies/TV
* Writing
* Blogging/Social Media/Promotion
This isn't exactly news.

But her grouping into thirds triggers my Logic Brain and I immediately start assessing whether I'm doing the things on the list. Creative Brain likes to do it out of order:

Writing
This I'm doing well, by which I mean, I spend substantial numbers of hours every day with my butt-in-chair. I'm starting and finishing manuscripts. I'm getting great critical feedback, attending writer's conferences, and moving my craft forward. Creative Brain likes to start with the things we score high in.

Blogging/Social Media/Promotion
I think I'm making a good effort here. Whether I'm doing it right is another question. But I have a pretty firm grasp on the basics, and have a ridiculous number of buttons on the sidebar where you can find me. I blog regularly, which is the focus of my social media efforts so far, and Kristen Lamb approves of that.

Auggie, with his shirt on, because this is a PG blog.

Reading/Watching Movies/ TV
Here's where I fall down. I stopped watching TV for NaNo two years ago, and never really went back (although I have a weakness for Auggie, and Big Bang Theory is required watching in my house when it's in season). Movies are like Red Bull for my Creative Brain, and I can manage them because I'm only absorbed for a limited time. But books ... my beloved books ...

When I'm writing intensely, it's really tough for me to read fiction without getting distracted.

But I need to find a way. This is a handicap I can overcome, I'm sure of it. I just need to figure out what will work to keep my Creative Brain fed without having it wander off into Distraction Land and never come back.

Do you have any tips for me? Should I only read boring books? Or novels way out of my genre (MG and YA)?

How do you manage reading and writing at the same time?

p.s. Every Thursday, my publisher, Omnific Publishing sponsors an author blog hop (any author can join). Check it out!

44 comments:

  1. I read everything I can get my hands on - and I think it really has helped me as a writer. I just consider it research! Now, that being said, I run into time crunches too. And sadly, reading is sometimes the thing that gets pushed back. It is a constant lesson in balance.
    Good luck!

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  2. I’m the opposite of you. I have to be reading something I love while I’m writing (obviously not at the same time). But when I hit a roadblock in my novel, I can put it down and get lost in another story. I am limited on what type of books I read if I’m in the middle of a first draft. For instance, I won’t read a book about angels if I’m writing one. I just don’t want to accidently use similar things in my book.

    Most of the time, I read before bed. It’s my wind down time and usually helps my mind to stop thinking about all the things I have to do the next day. It also helps me to stop thinking about my WIP.

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  3. @Cherie Oh! I like that idea of reading before bed to stop thinking about my MS (I do that a lot and it makes it hard to sleep!). I might just have to try that...THANKS!

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  4. I've kept TV and movies in the loop by relying heavily on the DVR, and weeding out all but the most essential shows--Big Bang Theory is definitely included. I also do a lot of my reading at night before bed. Unfortunately, I really only have about 1.5-2 hours a day to devote to writing/social networking because of the day job, family, etc. Maybe I need to start weeding out some of the sleep :)

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  5. I just try to set aside time to write. During that time, I write. If I make sure of that, then other free time that springs up can be used for reading. Which, sometimes, isn't that much. But that's life.

    Vacation was nice! Full of books! Read five books in as many days! Felt like old times...

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  6. On the days when I manage to balance- which is few and far between- I make sure I get my writing done first. I try and do it in the am, check my social networking while I eat, then hopefully have my evenings free. If I give myself a 'treat' in the middle of the day and read- then I'm done for, and god forbid it's a series with many of them already written because then I'm gone for a week or more :) My kids can make PB&J so it's okay :)

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  7. I read books I like. And in the past year I've been reading a ton more. If I reach my word count I read at night, even if it's just an hour before I go to bed. I read when my kids are reading. I think reading makes a huge difference.

    I don't watch a lot of television. I like good movies. And I'd love another fast paced show like LOST. I loved that show! I just can't get into the sitcoms and cheesy dramas. I do enjoy Castle though.

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  8. I go in phases. I find that I write very little when I'm in "reading" mode and vice versa. I wish I could figure out a balance for myself.

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  9. I read at night in bed, it's my favorite time and place to read. But also will read on the couch on Sunday afternoons. Writing I do in the mornings.

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  10. thanks for the tips...sometimes it gets really hard to manage your time with EVERYTHING going on in your life.

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  11. @Alicia I'm glad I'm not the only one! It's that "getting lost in the book" factor that makes it so hard for me to combine it with writing. But I'm going to keep trying...

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  12. I make sure to work on my ms every day, but I don't make myself work 1 or 2 or 4 hours - just so long as there's continuity. This is especially helpful when I'm plodding through an especially hard bit. Or editing.

    I've started making a point of reviewing the books I read (posting at blog and more on Goodreads). It's a great way of processing the book more specifically and helps me identify what I did and didn't like about a particular work. Makes the reading not just enjoyable, but useful.

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  13. I usually only read fiction and that's pretty much what I write too! If I only read non-fiction I don't think I would be able to write a fiction book at the same time! I also stopped watching TV not too long ago. First it got boring because I liked writing better, and then my dad just canceled the cable subscription! So now we've got Netflix but that's about it (and it's totally fine with me!)

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  14. @Tricia I'm glad I'm not the only one that struggles with this! :)

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  15. I read long and often long-winded 19th century novels before bed. Anything by Dickens especially.

    It's a welcome distraction. I obviously don't write in that style (because no one but Dickens could write like that) and I'm not in danger of picking up anything stylistically.

    Plus they are often boring in spots and they help me sleep. ;)

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  17. @Prerna You are not kidding, my friend. Life is crazy busy!

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  18. I've made up a rule for myself: if I have a book within grasp and I don't feel like writing, then I have to read (and vice versa). Either way I'm reading or writing, both of which help improve my craft.

    So naturally during the times I'm really into my writing...less reading gets done. I try not to mourn over it. I'm still being productive, and that's all that matters.

    Good luck tackling that enormous TBR pile! It certainly puts mine to shame. :)

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  19. @Kurt Making sure the MS comes first is one reason I struggle with the reading – but I know I need to do both!

    Reviewing books, analyzing books, etc. are all grand – indeed really important for a writer to do. But I don’t post my reviews (unless they are really recommendations, i.e. glowing reviews) for this reason. Each writer has to find their own balance with this, but I bring it up just because it took me a while to figure it out and I want to make sure each writer at least thinks about it. So they don’t hurt themselves.

    But in this era of self-publishing, I’m not sure if that changes the game or not. Hmmm…might have to rethink it. Again. :)

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  20. @Ava That's a great rule! And a wonderful way to keep focused. :)

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  21. I think that there are more writers than there are readers in the world right now which strikes me as being odd. I think this is because not all writers are readers and they should stop being bad like this. If you want to write, it should be mandatory to read books. I can always tell when a writer is not a reader...you know the kind..."I don't want to read because it will interfere with my own voice" and then they proceed to hammer out a crap sandwich and expect others to read it.

    Your TBR pile is incredibly huge. I have four books on mine and I whittle away at it constantly. No new books are ever purchased without getting rid of one. I wish that all books I read were good...some have been real stinkers.

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  22. Good luck finding that balance! I don't have an issue with reading and writing at the same time. I think reading books in my genre motivates me to write.

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  23. No disagreement in principle. Not being a published author (not even a self-published - ms isn't ready) it's a little beside the point just now.

    The praise-by-name and criticize-by-example is a good way to go.

    thanks for the link - Stacia's blog entry was fantastic.

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  24. Sacrifice sleep. I always read before bed. But a lot of my reading is done in the wee hours of the morning after the cat wakes me up and I can't go back to sleep. So, maybe, get a cat?

    Reading doesn't usually distract me from writing. Although when I have a good burst of writing, I don't want to do anything, including eat, clean or leave the house. My family is not fond of writing bursts :)

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  25. Yes, when I'm writing, reading falls by the wayside unless it's a pure pageturner. TV, on the other hand, is a nice, much needed paralysis injection to the brain hamster.

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  26. i have trouble blogging (posting)while i'm writing... but i can read!
    still though, my goodreads looks like yours! now to friend you...

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  27. @Kurt I like the idea of praising-by-name and criticizing by example! There are many approaches to this, you just have to figure out what works for you at each stage of the game. :)

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  28. HIya Susan!--fellow campaigner dropping in.

    Former rocket scientist? THAT IS AWESOME. I would lovvveeee to pick your brain.

    it's nice to meet you!

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  29. @Eliza Thanks for stopping by! And feel free to email me and geek out at pretty much anytime. :)

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  30. Huh. I read everything I can get my hands on, too... Sometimes I think I should not but - well - it keeps my muse happy.

    But I am rather easily distractible.

    Also: nice to meet you, fellow campaigner!

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  31. I have certain allocated times for reading and writing. Blogging though often snatches precious writing time away.I sometimes have to unplug the internet connection to get any writing done LOL! :O)

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  32. @Sash Keeping the muse happy is a must! :) Thanks for stopping by, fellow campaigner! :)

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  33. I love the dividing up of effort - so to speak. I am very logical, and can use this.

    Of course, right now, I'm only doing the watching TV part very well...hahaha!

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  34. Well, I think what works for each person is different. But reading most definitely helps the writing. What I do is do my writing (I get pretty obsessed especially in a rough draft stage) Then when I get to a breaking point (time to put the MS away) I take out a book. Or two. Or three. :D This is a pretty regular and decent schedule, though it may not work for someone who doesn't write quite as fast and furious as I do.

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  35. Great post, Sue. I'm the same as Cherie and the opposite of you--I love to read while I'm writing. Reading inspires me and I'm constantly thinking about the story from a writer's POV while I'm reading. But I haven't gotten much writing done lately due to the day job so maybe all my reading interferes with writing too.

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  36. Oh, you hit a sensitive spot here. Warning: this may be long!!!

    So, I kept hearing how important it is to read in your genre. So I started reading with a goal of one book a week, most in YA/MG. Except during NaNoWriMo, I worked great with a reading on weeknights (plus reading at least a chapter of my WIP a night), making sure to finish the book by Friday and then plunge into writing on the weekends when I could dedicate longer chunks of time to it.

    That worked for a long time. But this late spring I hit a huge wall with writing. I finally cut back on reading, and I'm doing MUCH BETTER (I agree with you, reading fiction did eventually derail my own creative process). BUT BUT BUT based on feedback I've been getting, my writing has improved considerably, which may be in part due to just sticking with it, but I think it has a large part to do with reading the books and analyzing the books.

    So my conclusion: its a very tricky trade-off. But don't read boring books!!!

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  37. LOL. My TBR on Goodreads is 288. I need to do MORE writing. I'm trying to catch up my blogging and my reading. *sigh* so much to do, so little time. :-)

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  38. I struggle with this aswell. Writing and reading is akin to reading two books at the same time. And yet, to be a writer one must be well read and enjoy reading. I can't seem to find the time or the brainpower to do both.

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  39. The reading outside of my writing genre is what works for me. It's more of a time factor for me to do both reading and writing. :/

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  40. @Jessica I was a pro at watching TV before I gave it up. :)

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  41. @SuperHappy Yay! I'm glad I'm not the only one who struggles with this! Thanks for making me feel better. :)

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  42. That's an interesting breakdown by Lamb. I've never thought of it in those terms, but that triad is definitely true for me. I write during my kids' nap time, and save the evenings (when I'm too braindead for writing), to watch TV and movies with my husband. I read before bed. I wish I had more time for both writing and reading, but you have to make the most of what you've got in whatever stage of life you're in.

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  43. I read all the time. I read ya, mg, cb, and pbs...I occassionally throw in a grown up book. LOL... I tend to have three or four books going at the same time. Right now I'm reading Jessica Bell's String Bridges, Hilary Wagner's The White Assassin, The Book Thief, and Master Your Metabolism. I tend to read picture books when I'm starting a new pb story. So out of the books I'm reading The Book Thief is the only one I'm currently writing in that genre, but for a different age group.

    BTW, that's an impressive TBR list!

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  44. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Happy campaigning!

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Erudite comments from thoughtful readers