Dual Lives

Like most people who write fiction, I do so for fun.

I am fortunate enough to spend part of my life as a professional writer (e.g., working on my dissertation) and part as a mama to very active toddlers. Much of the rest of my time is consumed by mundane human activities (i.e., showering, cooking, jogging, sleeping, etc.) or nurturing my marriage and friendships.

The difficulties in balancing recreational writing against professional and personal commitments are well-trod territories. I’ll probably explore them more at some point, but in this post, I have something else in mind.

For the moment, I’m interested in the balance between our lives as readers and our lives as writers. In the few hours a day that I’m able to snag for myself, either early in the morning before the kids are awake or in the evening after they’re asleep, how do you decide when to read and when to write?

After all, I started writing because I like reading stories. Since I’m writing a genre that I’ve only read for 18 months or so, I have a tremendous amount to learn. I also think it’s important to participate in the literary marketplace. (Someday I want people to buy my books, shouldn’t I buy theirs?)

During my recreational time, I read for research. I chart the structure of genre novels that I read for pleasure, I read non-fiction, and I read novels written during the period when my fiction is set.

I also read things that have nothing to do with anything. I recently started George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. I haven’t read a fantasy novel since the final Harry Potter book and, before that, since I read the Lord of the Rings when I was in middle school. I don’t write fantasy and have no plans to do so. But Martin’s novels are oh so good. They’re rich storytelling and I’m having a blast.

I realize, however, that I’m making a tradeoff. I read very quickly, but it will probably take me 2 to 3 weeks to read the five Martin books. During that time, I’ll get little to no writing done.

When I was finishing my first novel project, I pretty much stopped reading for about 2 weeks. I knew that I was close to finishing — I’d worked out the structure for the end of the book — so I pushed through and got the words on the page. I wrote 1,500 – 4,000 words a day. It was exhausting, but it felt amazing when I was done.

I worry, though, that in gorging myself in either one or the other (reading OR writing), that I’m not approaching this in the best way.

How do you think about your dual lives as a reader and as a writer? Do you sent aside time for both? Try to maintain a percentage? Or do you indulge in whatever you need to at the moment?

2 thoughts on “Dual Lives

  1. I don’t have a set schedule for reading or writing, but mostly I prefer reading in a place where I can’t be distracted by my need to write (on my way home, for example, or while waiting for my turn in a certain place, or when internet is out, etc). It balances out well, and most of the time I’m able to finish reading a book within a week or less. It also helps that I share a love for reading with my fiance, so occasionally we put aside a certain book and read it together.

    1. This is good advice. I never leave home without a book or my Kindle and depending on the day, I get a lot of “incidental” reading done.

      I think that I’m someone who gets distracted by reading more than I get distracted by writing, and knowing that about myself, I think I need to schedule my writing. I’ll always make time to read, but probably not to write.

      Out of curiosity, when you read books with your fiance, do you read them aloud?

      When my husband and I are reading the same thing, if it’s a paper copy, one of us will read it and then the other. If it’s on our Kindles, we can both read at the same time as long as we don’t turn on the WiFi, which syncs to the furthest page read.

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