Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Benefits of Reading -- A Primo Procrastination Tool!

Reading does a lot of things for a writer, and I'll probably go over a bunch of them this week, but I want to talk about something NEW I learned about reading. It is the greatest tool ever invented to deal with one horrible thing that afflicts writers all over:

Reading can break the internet habit!

It can also break the TV habit, or the "too much marketing" habit, or the stats checking habit. Applied properly, it might even help with other addictions. I don't know.

I just know that by declaring reading for fun to be an Important Activity that can be used to avoid writing, I find myself doing less of those things I need to stop doing. When I tell myself, "stop playing on the internet and get writing" I often think "Okay, just as soon as I check my stats this one last time..." and that leads to checking email just that one more time, which leads to checking something else, etc.

But if I say to myself "you're just doing this to avoid writing, so go avoid writing by READING" I find that I instantly go and read. I don't pass Go, I don't collect $200. Which breaks the cycle and then I get a good writing session in after I read.

Reading puts your brain in a different mode than it's in when you're surfing the internet.

Usually when I'm not the internet, I'm in information-gathering and practical planning and business mode. When I'm in that mode, my imagination lends itself to writing blog posts and figuring out marketing strategies. And when I'm in that mode, sales and pricing and strategy all seem really important. I'll read what Joe Konrath has to stay, and read where Dean Wesley Smith disagrees with this but not with that, and I get wrapped up in shaping my career -- even if the conclusion of all those thoughts is to "write!" it draws me into thinking about writing, not doing it.

Reading, on the other hand, draws my imagination right into where it belongs -- into resolving critical life-and-death situations the characters are in. Marketing, sales, arguing with people who are wrong on the internet? Bah! That is unimportant! Will Binky fix his sno-cone machine and save the ice race? That's important!

My mother unintentionally (or maybe intentionally) taught me this. She had a rule that when there were chores, she would never interrupt a child who was reading. Nothing else matters as much as the story. That's the mode your head has to be in, and if you're a writer, that's the mode your head WANTS to be in. But life has a way of pulling you out of that mode, and convincing you that other things -- you know, like reality -- are as important.

A book will always help you snap out of reality.


a said...

Your mom, too, eh? My mom didn't have that official rule, but we all noticed how she'd hesitate to assign a chore to anyone with their nose buried in a book. My non-reader sister used to complain when my mom would tell her to do something, because I was reading and not to be disturbed. (It was my form of revenge. Sis used to head for the bathroom every night after dinner, leaving me to do the dishes all by myself!)

The Daring Novelist said...

Well, mine never mentioned that she had that rule until we were in our forties. Which caused us to nod sagely and say "This is how you end up with a lazy intellectual child."

a said...

That would explain my split personality. On the one hand, she encouraged that dilettantism, while on the other she inculcated in us a whole load of Irish Catholic guilt.