Reading and Writing: Simultaneously

13 Mar

Today, while I was at work, I had a pile of five books. I was reading one. My laptop was open on something I was writing. And I was answering phone calls in-between.

“What are you doing?” a co-worker asked.

“Oh, just reading five books and writing two.” I said.

She looked at me with a look of surprise, curiosity, and bewilderment all at the same time.

“What?” I laughed. “Is that not normal?”

It led me to begin to think about multitasking. And writing in general. How many of us have ever found ourselves writing a novel while wanting to read other books at the same time? I used to be a firm believer in not reading any other books while writing my own. I was afraid of outside influence sneaking in. I was afraid another author’s ideas would somehow interact with my own and confuse my own ideas.

Now, I’ve just given in. I’ve succumbed to the desire of reading while writing my novels. Why? Because, I’m constantly writing my next novel. If I keep putting down books to write, it’ll not only stump my intellectual growth, but it’ll make me hurry to finish my book just so I can read again.

After I gave in and started reading, I realized I was false in my assumptions. I realized that my story is completely separate from the others. In no way, shape, or form did another author’s thoughts sneak into my own. There are also benefits. While you’re reading, you’re seeing what works in a story and what doesn’t. You see patterns you either like or dislike. It doesn’t affect your own style, but it does make you realize a certain rhythm is necessary. It makes you understand even greater just how vital it is to have a good narration and an endearing main character.

You walk away after reading a good book with the realization of how necessary it is to end a story well. It keeps it bright in your mind so you don’t forget it. It helps you write your story along so that it all makes sense. So everything you think is important is there.

Of course, this might not work for everyone. I used to strictly write until I was finished and not read any books until mine was over. But, also, it used to be a lot more difficult for me to actually finish a book. Now that I know I can, it’s easier. I’m more comfortable reading now. I know my style and my voice will always be there, regardless of what else I read in the meantime. And anyway, isn’t everything an influence on our thoughts and ideas in one way or another? Our past? Our education? Films we’ve seen? Books we’ve loved? People we’ve loved? Things we’ve hated? Everything.

So I say, gather up your influences. Gather them all up and mix them in a giant pot with fresh concepts and new ideas. Make a delicious soup full of interesting characters, driven plots, and rhythmic prose.

But no matter what you do, just write god damn it. Whether it’s great or not. Lower your expectations of yourself. Set the bar low, and you can’t disappoint yourself. Tell yourself you’re going to write a piece of crap today. But who knows- maybe it will come out smelling like roses.


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