Last week I received a direct message via Twitter from the lovely Camille Noe Pagan, whose debut novel, THE ART OF FORGETTING, was published this week by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin (US). Camille was putting together a blog post for the “Author’s Desk” at Penguin.com about how and when authors find time to read. This is a topic of considerable interest to me, as it should be for all writers.
Being asked to write about this couldn’t have come at a more apposite time. Reading has become increasingly difficult for me lately. I have moved into a new house which I am slowly trying to furnish, I am learning how to be a single dad, and I am still doing the day job… then there’s the small matter of ushering my book ever so slowly towards publication. And oh, yes – I almost forgot the next one I’m supposed to be writing, too.
People have always asked me how I find time to read, and the answer used to be easy: I didn’t watch any television. At all. Ever.
Life was simple back then: I wrote in the mornings, and read in the evenings. I still write in the mornings – my two hours from 5 o’clock to 7 remain sacrosanct – but these days my evenings are filled with other, more humdrum demands: making the children’s lunches, laundry, washing, completing unfinished work from my curtailed day in the office… and by the time all that’s done, it’s all I can do to drag myself upstairs and flop into bed.
But here’s the thing. I’ve written before about how writers need to find a routine, and then stick to it. I’m starting to think the same might apply to readers, too. It’s not enough to blearily peer at the same three pages of a novel every night as I fall asleep with the light on. I need to read. That is what writers do. Words are our tools; they’re also our oxygen. We need them to survive. We breathe in other people’s words in order to produce our own. If you do not read, you cannot write.
So I’m thinking the time has come to get serious about carving out time to read. It seems I can no longer take it for granted, the way I once could. I’m still trying to work out exactly how I’m going to do this. In some way the idea of making a plan or a schedule to read sounds antithetical to the joy that reading gives me. But needs must. If anyone has any strategies that work for them, please feel free to share. I’m getting on a plane next week, and all those hours of uninterrupted time should top me up nicely, but I need a long term plan.
For the record, right now I am reading The Bird Sisters, by the lovely Rebecca Rasmussen, who recently came to Columbia to give a reading. It’s a stunning book, beautifully written. It’s one of those novels that you wish you were reading with someone (very patient) sitting next to you, so you can lean over and read bits out to them. The urge to do this happens on every page. It’s wonderful stuff. (I accept it is possible that I am reading this particular book slowly because I don’t want it to end.)