Writing Tips: Making Time for Reading
I was on a panel of publishing folks who were talking about career paths in the industry. One general consensus of the panel was that to be excellent in this field, you need to read... a lot! Otherwise, how can you evaluate whether any written work (including your own!) measures up?
A followup point I made was that to be excellent requires reading in your area of specialty. For nonfiction, it would require reading a variety of books and blogs on relevant topics. For fiction, it would mean reading in the specific genres of interest, whether it's short stories, novels or poetry. And all genres have subcategories and topics to explore. For nonfiction, it might be memoirs, business, or how-to. For fiction, young adult, suspense or sonnets would be a few examples.
After the event, an attendee came up to ask me how I find time to read. He felt he took too long to read because he "hears" the words in his head as he reads them which takes more time. Hey, I have that problem, too! But is it really a problem? Is the answer speed reading? How can we squeeze reading time into our lives and still have time to write, too?
POP Reading Strategy: Prioritize, Organize, Plan
Most writers LOVE to read. It's usually what inspires them to write in the first place. Then life happens. Reading gets put on hold since it's seen as a luxury, not a necessity. Reading should be thought of as an "appointment" or "continuing education." For writers, it's professional development!
But here's the problem. The amount of content being created on a daily basis has increased exponentially since the Internet came along. While it can be argued that not everything online is worthy of reading, there is a lot of good content being produced. Then add regular books to that pile. The sheer volume of material is quite overwhelming.
So how do you attack a mountain of material? POP (Prioritize, Organize, Plan) to the rescue!
- Prioritize. First, decide what you are going to read for information or recreation. Which is more important for you at the moment? Prioritize based on your needs for entertainment or education. If it helps, assign a priority value to each book, blog or news feed of interest.
- Organize. For online reading, set up an RSS feed reader for your favorite blogs and websites to limit your reading to what's relevant. For news and updates received via social media or email, set up filters as "blinders" to prevent being distracted by all the noise. For books, concentrating on one book at a time can help focus attention. Click here to get more tips for handling email in 30 minutes or less each day.
- Plan. Set aside a specific time of day (or week)—and a time limit—for reading. Some may find that adding it as an appointment in the calendar will help make it a priority. If necessary, use a timer so that you don't let this activity overtake your other work and responsibilities. Start with the highest priority reading first. For handling multiple high priority reading assignments, you can divide your allotted time into segments using a timer.
How Much Time Should be Set Aside to Read?
Of course, your other life priorities (work, family, health, etc.) will dictate. But even scheduling 15 to 30 minutes per sitting on a regular basis can help turn a haphazard activity into a productive habit. Operative phrase here is "on a regular basis." This is where most people fail in building new habits. It's less about the actual minutes devoted to reading as it is about devotion to the discipline of setting aside the time.
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Bane and Blessing of Hearing the Words While Reading
Like the publishing event attendee, many of us are prone to hearing the words as we read what's on a page (or screen). As kids, we learn to sound out words phonetically as we follow them along (either out loud or silently to ourselves). So we get in the habit early.
This skill can come in handy when we write since having an "ear" for what sounds right can help us write more conversationally. Also, "hearing" the words while reading can often make awkward passages obvious. This skill is almost a requirement for creative works that have high auditory value, such as poetry. Biggest downside is that reading this way has a decreased reading speed.
In contrast, speed reading or skimming techniques can help break people of this habit, which is great for when a large amount of material needs to be read for information purposes. But it may not be the best if reading for pleasure or auditory value.
So which one is best? It depends on the material and the goals for reading it. Realizing the advantages of each can help make the right reading technique choice.
Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.