Thursday, March 4, 2010


Much has been written lately about what and how and why writers read. So, to change the subject, I've decided to write about writers and reading.

Read nonfiction? I subscribe to Discover, National Geographic, and Time -- not to mention 30-40 minutes or so each day following interesting news and science stories on the internet. I also read layman-grade science and history books for fun.

Read in my field of interest? I buy annual "Best of-" anthologies in science fiction, mystery, and fantasy; acquire or borrow I'm not sure how many related novels; and pick up a half-dozen copies of Ellery Queen, Analog, and similar magazines during the year. I also read a handful of romances, because there are romance novels in my future.

Read in my industry? I read fiction set in the universes I write for and want to write for (see my columns on Media Tie-In writing).

Read as a craftsman? There are a few writers whose work I read to remind myself how things can be done.

Does this mean that as a writer all reading is work related? That everything must be part of building my skill set; a search for gadgets to add to my utility belt? It can. But while you should be focused on developing your craft, broadening your experience, diversifying your skill set, and learning new tricks of the trade, that can not be your only focus.

I was a public school teacher for many years, working with children and teens with severe emotional handicaps and/or conduct disorders. Two years after I should have, I quit; burned out. I needed a break. So I worked for eighteen months in a warehouse. Handled vender returns and seconds sales for a company that made baseball caps and polo shirts. I saw few people, spoke to fewer, and spent a lot of time with clipboards, boxes, and label makers. After my break, I did not return to teaching as planned, but went into community mental health.

So every so often, but not too often, I read a young adult novel. Rarely contemporary and never dealing with social issues. Historicals, or culturals, or science fiction, or fantasy, or mystery, or coming of age -- pretty much anything unrelated to any form of my work. Forty thousand words of clean cut, straightforward storytelling complete with beginning, middle, and unambiguous end. (To a lesser extent, sweet romances -- no physiological improbables performing gravity-defying sex, psychically bonded murderers, undead werewhatevers who must mate, etc.) My break, my time in the warehouse, my recharger, is just a well written story I don't have to think about to enjoy.

What about you? What do you read purely for enjoyment? How do you recharge?

1 comment:

Liane Spicer said...

I read literary and genre fiction and everything in between, depending on my mood. Also nonfiction on subjects that interest me.

Then there are times, like right now, when I suffer from overload and read very little. I've been struggling through Hill Harper's Letters to a Young Brother for weeks now - which is a pity because it's a worthwhile read.