How to Enjoy Reading as a Writer (And Complete Those Reading Goals)

21 Jun

It’s summertime, which means beach reads are among us. Not to mention the fact that we’re halfway through 2021. (Eek!) How far along are you on your reading goals? I aim to read 52 books a year. I’m definitely not there yet. But I know a lot of us take this time of the year to catch up on our TBR pile, so I wanted to chat about books from the writer’s perspective. 

As Stephen King once said, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” It’s a very popular writing advice quote that most writers have probably heard here and there. I tend to agree with it. Reading is an important step of becoming a writer. But what happens when you don’t enjoy reading anymore? What if reading starts to feel like a chore? 

More often than not, I hear three reading issues from writers:

  • I can’t read while I’m writing. I fear accidentally taking those author’s words and using them myself in my current WIP. 
  • I don’t have enough time to read and write. My schedule doesn’t allow me to sit down and do both, so I have to skip the reading part. 
  • I don’t enjoy reading anymore. All I do is compare my work to theirs and/or I see tropes/mistakes/what’s coming rather than enjoy the moment.  

Sound like you? I’ve certainly been here before. The one that bit me the hardest was the last one. I used to get in such a writing headspace that I felt like I was studying every book I was reading rather than sitting back and enjoying the story. Eventually, I realized that I had to consciously set aside my writing brain and invite my reading one in. But more on that below! 

Combining reading with a beautiful place doesn’t hurt either!

If you’re the kind of writer that struggles with reading, here’s some quick tips:

  • Try reading in a different medium: I love audiobooks. They are absolutely perfect when it comes to my schedule, because I can read while driving, cooking, or doing other chores. They also give me a chance to rest my eyes and hands, which often get sore between my day job and writing. I’ve personally found audiobooks to help with separating reading from writing. My writing brain is easier to turn off when I’m listening to an audiobook because I don’t write in that same format. This required some lifestyle adjustments, though. In fact, I deleted all writing advice podcasts from my phone, so that I would stop associating audio with advice. Audio is now solely a place for joy—not advice—and making sure I honor that has helped my brain stay in that happy place for longer. 
  • Try reading a genre or age category that you don’t write: This is a good fit for those of you who fear accidentally taking something from a book you’re currently reading and putting it into your own words. If you’re reading a different genre/age category, it will feel more separated than if you’re reading something along similar lines. It may also help with the comparison bug. (It’s harder to compare your work to someone else’s when they are so vastly different.) 
  • Embrace how you’re feeling: What you’re feeling is perfectly normal. I find the writers who fight these feelings are the writers who struggle with it the most. I know, because I was one of these people for a long time. I often had to find ways to beat back the comparison bug. For instance, whenever I was reading something amazing and I started to think “I’ll never be able to write like this”, I would immediately flip to the back of the book. There, I would read the Acknowledgements page and read the growing list of people who helped that author get their story to where it is today. This was a factual reminder that my WIP was still a WIP; this book was a story dozens of people had helped shape. Seeing that almost always made me feel better. So yes, embrace what you’re feeling. Ask yourself why. Then tackle it. Once you do, you’ll find a solution. 

There are lots of ways to tackle reading and bring back the joy if you’re struggling. For instance, if I read something I admired—be it a trope, scene, or even a word—I would write it down. That way, I was acknowledging something my writer brain loved, but also took a note to deal with it on another day. At the end of reading, I’ll come back and analyze it.

It may take some experimenting, and you may experience hiccups along the way, but never give up on your love for reading. So many of us started writing because of reading. In fact, if you remember those old favorites that inspired you, I would encourage you to pick them up again. Enjoy that experience again. Remind yourself why you love the written word, and I’m sure you’ll be reading again in no time!

Do you have any reading tricks or tips? Feel free to share them with me! 

~SAT

P.S. Wednesday, June 23 is my 30th birthday! Where has time gone?!

8 Responses to “How to Enjoy Reading as a Writer (And Complete Those Reading Goals)”

  1. josiesvoice June 21, 2021 at 10:21 am #

    Advanced Happy Birthday, Shannon! Keep up the good work. Getting to life’s goals is never a straight line. Expect hills, valleys and mountains before reaching the final destination.

    • Shannon A Thompson June 21, 2021 at 11:31 am #

      Thank you!! I’m excited! I’m enjoying the journey along the way. 🙂
      ~SAT

  2. DebyFredericks June 22, 2021 at 8:56 pm #

    Strangely, I can see the author’s structure more in film and television than in written work. At the same time, if I am really engaged in the story, I don’t notice that. It’s when the plot lags or the characters seem flimsy that I find myself looking at the underpinnings.

    • Shannon A Thompson June 22, 2021 at 9:26 pm #

      Interesting! I wonder if other writers could relate. I bet so!
      ~SAT

    • Sarcasticus Rex July 1, 2021 at 7:37 am #

      I find that too. Watching movies or TV series, I can see the story structure more easily than when reading a book. For me, it may stem from starting serious writing in screenplays and knowing that there are usually specific steps in a limited amount of time. Whereas books can take a while to get to each step.
      You definitely aren’t the only one to do this.

  3. Sarcasticus Rex July 1, 2021 at 7:43 am #

    Audiobooks sound like an interesting idea, but to me, it wouldn’t feel like reading. I haven’t tried audiobooks yet, and I’d like to, especially if read by the author or someone I’d like to hear read a story. But, in my opinion, I don’t think its the same as “reading”. I’m listening to a story. I would think it’s more… passive. That’s why you can do other things while listening. Whereas reading a book is more involved. You are paying attention to the wording used, the structure, and if done right, how you can see it in your mind.
    I may be totally wrong about audiobooks. But since I’m having my own reading crisis (not reading enough to qualify me as a “writer”, according to Stephen King), I might look into other mediums. Wish me luck.

    • Shannon A Thompson July 1, 2021 at 10:00 am #

      Good luck! I definitely think audiobooks are reading. As someone who does both, you can be just involved. The amount of times I’ve sat in a parking lot just listening because the chapter has totally captured me is more than I can count. That said, audiobooks took me a while to get into, and the narrator can make a HUGE difference. So if you try them out, try a couple out. I started with nonfiction, since it had less dialogue, and then made my way into fiction with higher production quality ones first. (Some audiobooks have full casts and sound effects!) That said, I do prefer visually reading a book. There’s nothing like sitting back on the couch with a good hardback and a cup of coffee.
      ~SAT

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