CONFESSION: I do not read as much as I should.
It’s a shameful thing, for a number of reasons. First, it’s an incontrovertible fact that writers must always be reading. It’s part of the deal. You can’t grow your craft without any outside influence. No one’s brain can improve upon itself. You have to feed it.
Also, I love reading. I owe reading. The only reason the second grade progress report I recently found in my dad’s attic says, “Natalie loves to do creative writing and I believe she is very talented in her writing,” (thanks, Mrs. Myles!) is because I’d already been reading my tiny self silly by then. I grew up in a home with a heavy book reading culture, where everyone was expected to be halfway through a book at any given time. There was plenty going into my brain, so it’s no wonder good stuff came out.
But the life of a freelancer depends on a very simple equation. Time spent producing = income. It is dreadfully tempting to spend every waking hour investing in the first to maximize the second. There are casualties along the way, however, and for me, one of the greatest is reading. Perhaps that equation needs to be revised to reflect how the value of the product is linked directly to time spent honing skills, a variable in which reading is a major player. And the amount of work offered is liked to the value of the work, so…math isn’t really my thing, so someone else put the mathematical symbols in there for me, please. I assume it eventually proves a connection between time spent reading and income.
After four years of freelancing full time, I’ve learned there is no good way to regularly fold reading into my day. There are too many changing variables. The plan gets made; the plan gets foiled. Reading success, I’ve found, lies in recognizing opportunities to read and grabbing them. For instance, after one interview this morning, there is nothing due or horribly pressing on my plate today. Yesterday, my mom decided out of the blue to buy me a book by one of my favorite authors. That, I do believe, is an opportunity. If anyone needs me for the rest of the day, I will be grabbing it. You’re welcome, brain. (And thank you, Mom.)