Forgive me Stephen King, for I have sinned. I am a bad, bad writer.
There are two cardinal sins that a writer can make: failing to make time for writing, and failing to make time for reading. I’m stepping up to admit that for the past year I have fallen from grace–I have stopped making time to read.
I had my reasons of course. Between all the stuff needing done around the house, family commitments, time with the kids, volunteer work, writing time and critiquing, when did I have time to sit down and read? I brushed it off, choosing instead to squeeze as much time and energy into critiquing, editing and drafting as I could. After all, these were the things that would lead me to get published, and if I didn’t work at my writing, how could I ever expect to succeed?
Now writing is important, so my aggressive stance of putting as much time into it wasn’t all wrong. But really, I think that something else was keeping me from reading like I used to, something I’d like to talk a little about here, if you’ll indulge me.
Simply put, guilt.
I have guilt issues. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a stay-at-home mom, or just because I’m a headcase. Probably both. But somewhere deep down inside I felt like because reading was an activity that I derived great satisfaction from, it was also frivolous. Putting the feet up and reading was unproductive. Lazy. I should be doing the million tasks I knew required completion, not flagrantly enjoying fiction!
Reading became a rare treat to enjoy, a reward. Then a few days ago, someone at Verla Kay’s posted a portion of a talk given by Stephen King, whereby he told his audience that if people wanted to become writers, they had to make time to read. Commitment to writing meant throwing all the pathetic excuses to the zombies and making time for what was important. (Well, he didn’t exactly use the word zombies, but I totally bet he wanted to.)
This simple advice resonated within me, because somewhere along the way I’d lost touch with this basic writing 101 fact. Reading isn’t only for pleasure. It’s just as important to do as writing if we want to succeed.
I’m really grateful for that video, and for the little virtual slap of sense it dealt me. A one-time voracious reader, I had let guilt put a stranglehold on my reading. Maximizing time for writing is always important, but reading is what fills the creative well.
I’ve ordered a ton of books that I’ve put off reading because I ‘had no time.’ Already I’m starting to see a shift in my creativity, and I’m enjoying my writing on a new level. Here’s to balance, and making time for all the important things!
Have you ever found yourself feeling guilt over the time you spent reading or writing?
Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.