In Others’ Words: Writing & Reading

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“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ~Stephen King (1947-), author

I’m an author and, yes, I’ve heard the “To be a good writer you need to read” admonition so many times I’ve lost count. Of course, I’m lousy at math, so losing count isn’t that difficult for me.

But even though I know I should read, read, read to improve my craft, some days (weeks, months) I just don’t.

Believe me, I have plenty of want-to. And I also have several different To Be Read piles, as well as a Kindle loaded with options. But there are only so many hours in the day — I know, tell you something you don’t know, right? — and too often I have to choose between writing or reading.

And so, I choose writing.

And then there are weeks like last week, when I read two books: Lisa Jordan’s Lakeside Family, Karen Witemeyer’s Short-Straw Bride and started Jody Hedlund’s Unending Devotion.

And yes, it was good to enjoy someone else’s writing for awhile. Yes, my work still waited for me when I emerged for another author’s storyworld. But it refreshed my own imagination to be the reader for a while, not the writer.

In Your Words: Writers, do you ever struggle with choosing between writing and reading? Readers (and writers), what are you reading right now?

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  1. Bernadette DesChamps
    August 29, 2012, 2:32 am   /  Reply

    Hmm. I know that I sometimes feel guilty when I’m whiling away an afternoon writing as opposed to reading. Perhaps that’s because reading is an old friend and I’m just now learning to think of myself as a writer, thus the term “whiling away.” When does writing settle in as a legitimate pursuit?

    Anyway… I am currently reading Ann Tatlock’s Travelers Rest and Transforming Grace: Living Confidently In God’s Unfailing Love by Jerry Bridges. Then there’s always that half digested copy of John Piper’s Desiring God that I started last summer…

    • Beth Vogt
      August 29, 2012, 8:10 pm   /  Reply

      Ah, the question of when does writing become more than just a “hobby?”
      I think at any level of commitment, writing is always a legitimate pursuit!
      And now I want to add several more books to my TBR pile, thank you!

  2. August 29, 2012, 5:51 am   /  Reply

    I’m very impressed w/ Eliz. Musser, definitely awaiting her next book. Someone gave me one of Joyce Meyer’s novels, I’m in the middle of that and someone I respect highly recommended When the Almond Tree Blossoms by Time’s former sr. foreign corres. as a must-read political suspense, and of course awaiting Susan Warren’s newest, Lisa’s when I can, M Tagg’s when out, and yours!

    • Beth Vogt
      August 29, 2012, 8:11 pm   /  Reply

      Hello, Dee!
      Coming to the conversation late today. Although I’ve read all the comments, I’ve been a silent participant today. And you’ve reminded me about Eliz. Musser again …

  3. August 29, 2012, 6:23 am   /  Reply

    It’s pretty rare for me to go more than a few days without reading. I’m a bookworm to the core. And yes, I’ve shirked my writing to finish someone else’s book. 🙂 But the good thing is, I’ve found ways to read while doing other things–especially while working out. Knowing my Kindle is propped up on the elliptical makes me look forward to hopping on. 🙂

    • Beth Vogt
      August 29, 2012, 8:12 pm   /  Reply

      Agreed, Melissa. Working out = a great time to read.

  4. August 29, 2012, 6:45 am   /  Reply

    Funny, Beth, I’ve been in the opposite mode lately. I just turned in a m/s I’d revised for two straight years, so I’ve been enjoying a bit of a mental break, soaking up the wonderful writing of others. Now I just hope I can get my writing mojo back soon. 🙂

    • Beth Vogt
      August 29, 2012, 8:12 pm   /  Reply

      Congratulations on turning in that ms, Sarah! Give yourself plenty of time to rest and be refreshed!

  5. August 29, 2012, 6:57 am   /  Reply

    I adore both. Truly adore both. And it can be a fight to figure out which I want to do more depending on the book I’m reading. Right now I’m reading Alice Bliss about a girl in hs dealing with her dad missing in Iraq.
    ~ Wendy

    • Beth Vogt
      August 29, 2012, 8:15 pm   /  Reply

      Again — you and me, so much alike. Because I adore both. I really, really do. But as I dove into my writing more and more, I read less and less. And I missed it.

  6. August 29, 2012, 7:11 am   /  Reply

    I read on the recumbent bike and sometimes, when I reach my goal for the day, I get to read as a reward! And sometimes, I call reading research. 🙂

    • Beth Vogt
      August 29, 2012, 8:16 pm   /  Reply

      Love your approach, Pat.
      You are a wise woman.

  7. August 29, 2012, 7:26 am   /  Reply

    I love the pic you chose for this post? Cute!

    I go stretches without reading too. And it’s usually when I’m deep in my own work, but then there are also times when I read a lot. I think it’s perfectly ok to be cyclical like that. I always try to read a craft book in between my own novels so now I’m reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Love it! I’m also listening to Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan (Steampunk) on my iPhone while I jog. I love listening to books while I exercise but I find I don’t absorb as much.

    • Beth Vogt
      August 29, 2012, 8:16 pm   /  Reply

      You know, E, I thought of you when I selected the photo for this post!
      And one thing I should consider: audiobooks. I just haven’t ever embraced the whole “listening to a book” thing.

  8. August 29, 2012, 8:08 am   /  Reply

    Sometimes I mean to read for about fifteen minutes as a break and then about an hour later I look up and think, “I was supposed to be writing!” LOL I read every afternoon during my 45 minute car rider line time. Yes, 45 minutes, but I don’t mind because I’m reading!

    I also take a breather from the time my ms sets until revision time and read several books!

    • Beth Vogt
      August 29, 2012, 8:17 pm   /  Reply

      Ah, I utilize the car pool line time too — but I often use it to either a) write or b) catch up on phone calls!

  9. August 29, 2012, 8:48 am   /  Reply

    I most times pick writing over reading, and sometimes feel guilty about it. But then, there are times when I can’t put a book down, and if I do, I can’t concentrate on my writing because my mind is on the book. It’s a vicious cycle. A pleasant vicious cycle to have though. 🙂 This week I am reading more than writing. I’m reading Jody Hedlund’s book Unending Devotion…….and my Kindle is swelling at the seams!

    • Beth Vogt
      August 29, 2012, 8:18 pm   /  Reply

      I have Jody’s book on my coffee table … and am resisting it as a polish a synopsis and 2 sample chapters … but oh, it’s calling my name!

  10. August 29, 2012, 8:53 am   /  Reply

    Yes, yes, yes! I used to devour books, but then I started writing and now I struggle to find the time to read – for exactly the same reason as you. If I have a spare moment, I want to devote it to my own book. BUT – I recently read Laura Frantz’ Love’s Reckoning and *sigh* it was so beautiful. It invigorated me to get back at my own book and spice things up a bit! I am also reading Unending Devotion by Jody Hedlund (had it in the bathtub last night for over an hour – because I couldn’t bring my laptop with me there…) and it’s sooo good. Jody and I have very similar writing. My first WIP is set in central Minnesota (not Michigan), but it was a very comparable lifestyle.

    • Beth Vogt
      August 29, 2012, 8:20 pm   /  Reply

      Good point, Gabrielle, how another writer’s skill can inspire us!

  11. August 29, 2012, 8:54 am   /  Reply

    This past year I’ve read far more books than ever in my writing pursuit life. And it shows. Lately, I’ve discovered Sharon K. Souza’s work. Her writing is just my cuppa tea. Masterful, wise and quietly witty all throughout. I first read her newest release, “Unraveled” because of the interview she did on Novel Matters a couple weeks ago. I liked it a lot, (reviewed it HERE) so I found 2 of her other novels, read one (Every Good & Perfect Gift) and am about to read the other (Lying On Sunday). What reading hers and all the other great books I’ve read this year (including a lovely story by Beth K. Vogt about a bride with cold feet) has done is sharpened my eye for my own work. I just pulled out my first novel began 5 yrs ago and severely revised and finished 2 yrs ago. I was dusting it off with the idea of showing it to someone recently and saw so much missing in the opening pages. Between the lines stuff that ought to be there. (I blame SKS) So my recent focus on reading has definitely been building my writing skill. Or so we shall see when I end my 8 month novel hiatus next week and get actual writing started on the next book. Reading is one of many ingredients for improved writing, and a much needed one.

    • Beth Vogt
      August 29, 2012, 8:23 pm   /  Reply

      Thank you for the shout-out there, Camille — it means a lot.
      And your comment dovetails with Gabrielle’s — how other writers can cause us to raise the bar in our on writing. This is why I read Rachel Hauck. And Susan May Warren. And Jenny B. Jones. And yes, Jody Hedlund and Lisa Jordan and Keli Gwyn. Not all write my genre, but I love to examine their strengths and step back and see what I can learn from them.

  12. August 29, 2012, 9:27 am   /  Reply

    It was reading that first lead to my desire to write, but I think you’re right: there are only so many hours in a day, and oftentimes I have to write because that’s what will move me forward in this journey. I still adore reading and try to sneak it in when I can, but the time is quickly diminishing! Right now I’m reading Jody’s new book too.

    • Beth Vogt
      August 29, 2012, 8:23 pm   /  Reply

      OK, Jody Hedlund — are you reading this blog today?!

  13. Jeanne
    August 29, 2012, 9:31 am   /  Reply

    Reading and writing. Reading comes most naturally. Although, with busy days, it’s tricky to find time. Don’t laugh at me, but I read when I’m blow drying my hair and brushing my teeth. I get a good clean mouth and very dry hair. 🙂 Right now, I’m reading Deeanne Gist’s Deep In the Heart of Trouble. A friend loaned it to me, and I need to get it back to her. 🙂

    I have a number of books I look forward to reading, and I need to get back into reading craft books. I like Evangeline’s idea. I am going to try that. I don’t struggle with the choice of writing or reading, too often. Unless my writing is depressing me. Then, I read. 🙂

    • Beth Vogt
      August 29, 2012, 8:24 pm   /  Reply

      You know, you can brush your teeth and blow dry hair AND read at the same time, thanks to e-readers.
      It’s a beautiful thing.

  14. August 29, 2012, 10:02 am   /  Reply

    Wise words, my Friend. The balance between reading and writing is tough. But I find the more I read – especially something on a completely different topic – it renews my tired brain cells about my WIP. Oftentimes, those brain breaks provide writing breakthroughs. Right now I’m reading an advanced copy of Max Lucado’s new book: “Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine” that comes out mid-September. Incredible. Just incredible.

    • Beth Vogt
      August 29, 2012, 8:25 pm   /  Reply

      Oh, I love Max Lucado. Love, love, love.

  15. August 29, 2012, 1:14 pm   /  Reply

    I’d rather read and read and read some more.

    • Beth Vogt
      August 29, 2012, 8:25 pm   /  Reply

      OK, Dabney, that was easy.

      (And aren’t you on deadline?)

  16. August 29, 2012, 2:48 pm   /  Reply

    Ah… the balancing act. I’m either doing too much of one and not enough of the other or vice versa. But I’m never without a book in process or an MS in process. I think they’re both essential to life – like eating and sleeping. There’s a time for both, but if I do either of them too much or too little (or not at all!), I’ll die. Period.

    Back to work–reading–writing–both…..


    • Beth Vogt
      August 29, 2012, 8:25 pm   /  Reply

      Love that word: essential.
      Yes. They both are essential.

  17. August 29, 2012, 3:26 pm   /  Reply

    I am a bookworm but I don’t read every single day. I like to read at night, but a lot of nights I fall asleep before I can even pick up my Kindle or a book. But Saturday mornings are my reading time. I get up before everyone else and get my coffee and my book. I look forward to it! 🙂

    • Beth Vogt
      August 29, 2012, 8:27 pm   /  Reply

      What a nice routine, Coleen.
      Now to figure out that “getting up before everyone else” ability.

  18. August 30, 2012, 8:53 pm   /  Reply

    I’m happy to read this from another writer. I also have trouble finding the time for both and the balance between the two. Writing is usually my first choice. I’d love to figure out how to do more of both.

    I like Coleen’s routine, and I’m going to think on that one.

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