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Reading books while writing

How many of you spent their holiday season getting sucked into some good reads? I know I did… A few too many!

It left me feeling guilty that I wasn’t putting as many hours into writing as I did into reading, at least initially. Then I managed to let go of that guilt, and enjoy the novels.

One interesting thing I found is that, the more critical I am of my own writing, the more I tend to bring that to the table when reading a new book. Authors I enjoyed immensely started to disappoint me, and books I thought I would love, didn’t deliver as much as I hoped.

An example is James Patterson. Last summer, I went through a binge of his novels – the Alex Cross series, the Murder Mystery Club series, independent novels, Private, etc. – and loved the action, the plots that kept you in suspense, the surprising twists. The last two novels I picked up by him over the holiday season had plot holes, questions left unanswered, and an overall feeling of “meh”. I couldn’t tell you their names if you asked me, as I’ve forgotten both :(

That being said, a few people in my inner circle have asked me how come I keep reading, now that I’m writing novels. And I was confused, as I didn’t originally think one excludes the other! (For some people, it does – and that’s fine, don’t get me wrong). So I answered as honestly as I could that for me, reading does not harm my writing. On the contrary, it improves it.

My brain completely distances what I read from what I write, so I’m never in any danger of accidentally using someone else’s ideas, or whatnot. However, if I notice a certain way they describe things, I’ll ponder on my writing, wondering if the way I describe things is as vivid, if the reader can create the image from it just as well. These points make me more critical of my own writing – and in turn, more critical of what I read. It tends to go full circle :)

What are your takes on it? Do you read while writing? Do you have certain periods in the year when you read, others when you write?

Oddly enough, I find that over the last few years, between April-October, I tend to read more, write less. Then November, the “writing muse” gets awakened, and everything comes out at once over the next few months. Maybe it’s the winter season, and the inability to be outside as much? Where I live, the snow is abundant, the cold even more so :)

Looking forward to hearing your comments!

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