Read: it’s the first commandment of writing. Read often; read well; read everything you can get your hands on, because there is no better instructor than the written word itself.
Finding time to read, however, is a perpetual challenge for writers. As Robert Browne, author of The Paradise Prophecy, puts it, “Less reading is one of the hazards of the profession.” Even when we’re not tied up with a draft or promoting our work, busy lives crowd out minutes we might otherwise reserve for reading.
With this in mind, I asked several authors how they find time to read. Whether you’re an author or an avid reader, use their advice to uncover more opportunities to get lost in a good book.
- Choose your own books. Gretchen Rubin used to feel that she never had enough time to read, so she resolved to read more as part of her now-famous happiness project. One of her “aha moments”: Give up reading guilt. “Books make wonderful gifts—both to receive and to give—but I try not to let myself feel pressured to read a book just because someone has given it to me. I always give a gift book a try, but I no longer keep reading if I don’t want to,” says the author of The Happiness Project. (Check out Rubin’s great post on this subject, “12 Tips for Reading More”)
- Binge read on vacation. Some people sightsee on trips; Lee Woodruff, author of Perfectly Imperfect and In an Instant, views time away from home as a chance to plow through her ever-growing TBR pile. “My favorite reading time is on a plane,” says Woodruff. “On an overnight trip, I can get through two books sometimes.” Robert Browne agrees. “Vacations are wonderful, because I can read until my family decides it’s time to get me off my butt and go see the sights. I still take the book with me, however, and sneak in short sessions while nobody’s looking.”
- Turn off the tube. No surprise that TV is a time-suck, but the American Time Use Survey shows that the average American tunes in about 20 hours a week. “That’s practically a part-time job,” notes Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. “I’m not saying I never watch TV—but as much as possible, I try not to. There are other things I would rather do with those hours, and reading is one of them. I do a bit of reading before bed and during my kids’ naps on weekends.” Adds Vanderkam, “I love my Kindle! It’s made it easier to start reading a book on a whim, since I don’t have to haul myself to the bookstore or order the book and wait for it to be delivered. Indeed, [an e-reader] makes reading almost as easy as turning on the TV.”
- Give your brain a break by switching genres. Jen Miller, author of The Jersey Shore: Atlantic City to Cape May reads for pleasure and reviews books professionally, too. Her secret to beating reading fatigue: “After a heavy non-fiction book, I usually switch to genre fiction. I have no shame in admitting that I enjoy romance novels. Most of them are better researched and written than other and much more entertaining than, for example, watching TV.”
- Read on the job. Alex George, the author of the forthcomingThe Good American finds that his day job comes with a perk: “Reading during the day seems almost sinful, it’s such a pleasure. I always bring at least one book to work with me, and if I can I will try to snatch some precious moments over lunch as I munch on a sandwich at the office,” says George. “If I’m feeling self-indulgent I’ll take my book out to lunch. I love reading alone in restaurants. I like to think it makes me look mysterious.”
- Go beyond the page. With a two-year-old son at home and a busy schedule that includes finishing his upcoming trilogy, Trevor Shane, author of Children of Paranoia now “reads” with his ears: “I do the large majority of my reading via audiobook because I’ve found that it’s the best way to make sure that I fit reading into my schedule,” says Shane. His daily listening habit results in at least three books a month—not too shabby.
- Break it up. Health experts love to advise fitting in five or ten minutes of exercise throughout the day; Allie Larkin, author ofStay, takes the same approach with reading. “I read in little pockets. Take a work break, read a chapter. My dogs won’t go outside without me, so I use their yard time to relax in my lawn chair and read a few chapters. I’m a pro at throwing a frisbee and reading at the same time.” Larkin also recently gave up her seven-days-a-week work schedule: “I realized that wasn’t sustainable for me. So now I don’t go near my computer on the weekends. That has freed up a lot of lazy Sunday afternoons for a good book and a tall glass of iced tea.”
- Respect your process. Some writers are able to read their genre, even in the middle of working on a manuscript. If you’re not one of them, you’re in good company: “When I am writing, I find it very difficult to read fiction,” says Tiger Hills author Sarita Mandana. “I make up for it by reading obsessively when I am done; once I was finished writing Tiger Hills, I inhaled every book I could lay my hands on.”
How do you find time to read?
Originally posted at Penguin.com.