Tag Archives: I don’t have time to write

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?!

#SATurday: The Value of Knowing How Fast You Can Read or Write

11 Jul

The Value of Knowing How Fast You Can Read or Write

I don’t have time to read. I don’t have time to write.

We’ve all heard the phrases before…and possibly even said it ourselves. We get it. We do. Every writer and reader has a busy life, because every person has a busy life. Finding time to write or read isn’t easy. You just do it.

Easier said than done, right? Right. Which is why I want to share a small tip that worked for me in the early stages of my writing career. I’ve shared this with fellow writers before, so I know it works for some, but I must warn you that it has also discouraged others, so keep this one important fact in mind: It’s not about how fast you are. It’s not about comparing your speeds to anyone else’s. It’s about being aware of yourself, and using your awareness to manage yourself better.

Kiki helps me keep track.

Kiki helps me keep track.

My tip? Figure out how fast you read and write. (Remember, quality is key. This is not a race.)

What do I mean by that?

When you’re writing, take note of what time you start and your word count. When you’re done, take note of the time and how many words you get down. For reading, it’s very similar. Take note of where you started and when you started; then jot down how far you got and when you stopped. Do this a couple of times to get an average. Also, be aware of your nuances.

As an example, my major nuance is chapters. For both reading and writing, I cannot—for the life of me—stop in the middle of a chapter. So, for writing, I’m more likely to push myself longer just to finish that section, or if I feel myself getting tired, I might stop early to prevent myself from getting in the middle of a chapter. Now that I’m aware of my nuances, I can calculate speed. For two hours, I generally manage to write a chapter of 4,000-5,000 or so words and prep the next chapter, depending on where I’m at in those two hours. For reading, that’s about 200 or so pages, but this one is a little trickier since it is normally affected by the language or topic of the novel. That being said, that is my example.

Now what?

Now, pay attention to yourself. Did you just spend three hours watching television? I know I did that the other day. I couldn’t write due to carpal tunnel syndrome, so my situation was a little different, but I watched Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, an entire episode of John Adams, and the finale of Silicon Valley. I spent over three hours watching TV. Three hours. I could’ve written a chapter, prepped a chapter, and read 100 pages in my current read. This is where knowing your speed helps you manage your time. You stop counting time like one hour and you start counting time in word counts and pages.

Managing your time starts with being aware of your time. I know we all have difficulties—so, trust me, this is not a post slamming anyone who can’t find time to write and read. In fact, I’ve had a difficult time for the past week to find time to write and read since I’ve been moving more furniture from city to city. But there are days—like my three-hour television days—that I think we all have. And those are okay too. We’re allowed to take a break. This is more for those who might be struggling with their free time. This post is designed to suggest a new way to approach their situation. If you pay attention and figuring out another way to count time, you’ll be less likely to say, “I just watched one TV show” and more likely to realize that was an entire chapter in your WIP.

Remember that one important fact though. It’s not about how fast you are. It’s not about comparing your speeds to anyone else’s. It’s about being aware of yourself, and using your awareness to your advantage. And be aware of everything else too.

What do I mean by “everything else”? I wrote this blog post while cooking lunch—because I’ve been behind on blog posts and figured my lunch break would be a good time to sneak that in—so I wrote while I cooked. Pasta to be exact. It worked. I finished a blog post in time…but don’t let the water boil over like I did. ;]

~SAT

We’re so close!

As of yesterday, all three novels (YES, even Death Before Daylight) became available for pre-order

Minutes Before Sunset, Seconds Before Sunrise, Death Before Daylight

17

Pre-order today!

#MondayBlogs: Grocery Lists with Adjectives

16 Mar

Intro:

Like most people, I love to laugh. I find laughter to be one of the most relaxing, fun, and often enlightening side effects our emotions contain, and today’s post allows us to experience that laughter all over again – all while discussing a relevant and relatable topic. Writing every day is a popular goal in the writing community, and writer, Dan Pawlowski, is showing just how that can be done in an enjoyable way. He’s also a fellow Jayhawk, so a huge ROCKCHALK goes out to Dan and all KU alumni today.

#MondayBlogs: Grocery Lists with Adjectives

They say if you want to be a writer you need to write every day. The “they” in question is anyone who ever actually got published, so who am I to argue?

If you have a day job, this becomes a challenge. Add a long commute on top of that and it becomes extremely difficult. I work at a job that has an average round trip commute time of two hours, and my normal workday is at least nine and a half hours. Factor in average guy prep time to reach acceptable levels of hygiene and my day is close to thirteen hours. To write every day I have to get creative. Any chance to use a pen or pencil has to be taken advantage of and exploited past the bounds of normal convention. For example, who said grocery lists had to be boring? “It was a dark and stormy night when the pork chops arrived home with their friends the green beans and applesauce. They had planned a relaxing evening but they had come home to discover their neighbors the potatoes lying cooked in their front yard in a pool of butter and parsley.” Sure, it’s a circuitous way of noting to pick up pork chops, bean greens, applesauce and butter for the potatoes on the way home, but it works.

A writer's hand

A writer’s hand

I find that comment cards are a great opportunity to flex ones literary skills, and since I write fiction, it’s also a great source of fun. “My husband Ralph and I had come to your restaurant to repair our relationship but the years of philandering had done their damage. Ralph was constantly paranoid that your efficient but cute waiter Mario was trying to hit on me as he served us a marvelous vintage of red wine. By the time the Chicken Kiev arrived our relationship was beyond repair but the chicken was excellent. P.S. Have Mario give me a call.”

Frequently, some group or another has often accosted me on the street wanting my opinion on some topical subject. I only stop for the ones that require a written response. You can spot them because they work in twos and one of them is dragging around multiple clipboards.

“Would you like to fill out this short survey on our downtown mall?”

“Is there a comments section?”

“Why yes?”

“Then give me a clipboard and step aside?”

“Um, ok. Here you go sir.”

I go through the check boxes like a compulsive shopper on black

Friday and grab a piece of sidewalk when I hit the comments section.

“To the casual observer it would appear that the man was meandering aimlessly through the downtown mall. Perhaps he was looking to fill an empty void with shiny baubles. Perhaps he was lonely and wanted to experience something other than the four walls of his humble abode. In truth, his was a more nefarious purpose. He was here hoping for the inspiration needed to develop new characters for his next novel. The series had grown stagnant and was in serious need of rebooting. He found that people watching in eclectic locales provided the stimulation he needed. He also found a nice towel set at ‘Bed, Bath and Beyond’.”

Random opportunities such as these rarely offer enough time and space for character and plot development so do not expect any requests for a sequel. They do offer a chance to squeeze some writing into a hectic schedule and give you a fighting chance of achieving your goal to write every day.

Bio:

On the way to graduating from the University of Kansas with a degree in Computer Science, Dan Pawlowski had seriously entertained becoming a writer but he believed his writing paled in comparison to others in a sophomore writing class. Deciding he needed more life experiences before he could achieve success he set aside the notion for later.MyHeadshot

Flash forward 15 years and quite a few life experiences later and Dan had decided that he had enough scars to become a good writer. After several writing classes , posing the question “Where was a certain president during his national guard service,” mixing in some time travel and satire and his first book “Fortunate Son” was born.

When not working his day job Dan is looking for representation for “Fortunate Son” and is working on his second novel “Persecution Complex”. He also continues to write every day and contributes to his blog “The Sound of Laughter

Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. A picture and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

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