a funny (writerly) observation

I’ve noticed that when I’m writing a lot, I’m much less enthusiastic about reading. I’m wondering a little if the two tasks use the same part of the brain, or something, because I keep going to my TBR shelf, staring at it a while, even picking a book up, and then going “glglgh” and putting it back down again. I’ve found myself far less willing to go ahead and plow through a book I don’t think is very good. I’m even inclined to re-read more than tackle new books, possibly because it’s already familiar. None of this, of course, is any good for my TBR shelf, which has gotten to be over a hundred books again.

It’s not that the good stuff can’t draw me in, because when I sat down to read SUNSHINE the other day, I really didn’t want to do anything else but read it because it was so wonderful. But boy, it’s a lot harder to curl up with a book, if I’m writing a lot. If I need a break, I keep finding myself thinking, “…or I could watch some Highlander instead,” and doing that.

Do other writers have this problem? Sarah said she did.


  1. Alix



    I don’t think, for me (yes, the great writer, hah!) that it’s a case of my brain can either read or write, but that I have a set amount of time, and the amount of time it takes to read and the amount of time it takes to write make the two tasks mutually exclusive: I can read *or* I can write, but I really don’t have time to do both simultaneously.

    And, when I start reading a book, I like plugging at it and finish it fairly quickly. I no longer have the time like I used to, to pick up a book one night and read it through in two days, so when I read it an hour or two here, and an hour or two there, that’s 2-4 hours when I can’t write.

    Or, vice versa.

  2. I’ve found that I have the same problem. I can’t seem to read at the same time I’m in the middle of a writing project. And by read, I mean read a novel. I can read manga or graphic novels while I’m writing, but I suppose the mental energy to read those isn’t the same necessary to read a book? I don’t mean that in an insulting way at all, but it’s the only explanation I have for why I can read manga while writing, but not a novel.

    Or maybe it’s just that we need a break from WORDS? Because if you watch Highlander or I read manga, there are pictures instead.

  3. Hm! Good point, Vernieda. I can read comics while I’m writing (well, you know. Not exactly at the same time. :)), but the effort for a novel (which is what I meant, too, by ‘reading’) is much greater. I’m sure it possibly has something to do with the length of the material involved, but I think you might have something about the *words*. Manga or comics or tv are a break from the *words*. Hmmm.

    (BTW, V, nice to see you here! Glad I didn’t lose you when I switched from posting at cemurphy.)

    *hmmmms* at Alix, too. Usually when I pick up a book to read it’s during specified Not Writing Time for me (my writing time is 1. before work, early in the morning, and 2. after gymming and dinner, around 7pm, if I go for a second bout that day), so I’m not struggling with the either/or problem so much there.

    I do often stand in front of the TBR shelf and kind of think, “If my options are reading or writing, I’d rather be writing,” so it may be simply a case of being more interested in my own story than in one somebody else can tell me. And because I’m looking at those things during designated-not-writing-time, doing something that has nothing to do with words (I really think Vernieda’s on to something there) ultimately holds more appeal.

    It’s pretty weird, though, because I *like* reading. Finding myself standing there staring at the TBR shelf and going ‘naaaaah’ is pretty strange.

  4. Tracie

    I’ve always found that I will do intensely one or the other but never at the same time of these: write, draw, or read. I noticed this a long time ago about myself. Right now? I’m reading. Just finished off the last of the Robin Hobb books, thank goodness, now I’m free to do other things.

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