May 10, 2010

The Worst Idea in the World

Reading: Start Me Up by Victoria Dahl
Watching: X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Listening to: Jurassic Park Soundtrack
Making me smile: My picnic lunch at the beach yesterday

I love to write. I enjoy losing myself in a world I've created and spending time with characters I wish I knew in real life. I became a writer because I love to read (some of you saw my book binge list last month!)

I’ll often be late, running behind, in a state of panic or guilty because I was reading a book instead of doing something else I was supposed to be doing, like cleaning, ironing, sleeping, getting ready to go out, writing…the list goes on.

Whenever my husband hears the phrase “I’ll just get to the end of this chapter” I now get a massive eye roll because, well, hours later I’m still reading. Okay, so I have a teeny, tiny addiction, but in my opinion a good one (-:

A little while ago, in an effort to be more disciplined and productive with my writing, I decided to make a list of all the books I was dying to read and use them as reward books. I couldn’t read until a book until I’d finished writing five chapters etc. Brilliant idea – stops me reading when I should be writing and provides an excellent carrot.

Image: Nikita Rogul |

It was incredibly painful at first, but I forced myself to stick to it. About three days into it, I decided only full books were on the list, short stories didn’t count. So of course, I started reading a lot more shorts!

Did I miraculously start flying through writing my chapters? Were the words pouring out of me so I could get my reward? NO. After a few weeks, all my inspiration for the story I was writing was gone. Sucked away. I was bone dry.

I remember reading an article called A week without books. In it, Bibi van der Zee details her experiment of going cold turkey on books and not reading for a week. She was worried that since she’s so addicted to books, her quality of life was suffering. In fact, she discovers the opposite.

Image: Melinda Nagy |

I finally worked out that reading helps my writing. It inspires me, educates me, motivates me and fires my urge to create amazing characters and stories.

While using books as rewards might work for others, for me it was the worst idea in the world. Now I’ve committed to writing AND reading every day. Do I sometimes read when I should write…sure. But at least when I am writing those words are flowing and I love every minute of it!

How about you? Can you restrict your reading? Can you go a week (or write five chapters!) without books?


  1. Fantastic, interesting post! I read the article you linked too as well, and also enjoyed it.

    I completely related to "I’ll often be late, running behind, in a state of panic or guilty because I was reading a book instead of doing something else I was supposed to be doing, like cleaning, ironing, sleeping, getting ready to go out, writing…the list goes on."

    It's reassuring to know that I'm normal :)

  2. OMG, I absolutely recognised myself in your description above! It's nice to know I'm not along -- there's you, me, Leah...

    Your experiment (and Bibi's) sounds interesting but extremely painful! I'm not sure I'm brave enough to try it.

    (And P.S. Is Wolverine good? I'm dying to see it!)

  3. Great post Anna,
    I'm certain you are right with the creativity drying up. Great books inspire me, make me want to write better and think more about my characters. I've actually found my writing has suffered because I haven't allowed time for reading. I guess one feeds the other =)

  4. Oh, I absolutely need to keep reading to keep me inspired!

    Only thing I would add is that I need to read *good* books. If I read bad books, I'm not as motivated or creative. But yeah, good books do the things for me that you described. =)

    You're a brave woman, Anna, to even try that experiment!

  5. Hi Anna,
    Oh, this made me laugh! I don't know how may times I've said, "One more chapter." to my hubby, and two hours later he gets up and pulls the plug on my bedside lamp. The things our boys put up with... :)
    Which is also why I love my iPhone so much - it's backlit and I can turn the page with the tiniest movement of my thumb - now he's clueless!

    I find too, if I'm not reading, my inspiration dribbles away to nothing. There must be a balance, but sometimes I struggle to find it. It's fuel for the mind, I think.

    And late? Um, yeah, ALWAYS!

    Exciting news - we're up to 52 fans on your Facebook page, Anna! We've had a massive jump these last few days. Congrats! :)

    Here's the link if people would like to join the wave!

    ~ Em x

  6. Oh, oops. That's not a link. It might be a cut-and-paste job... Sorry. Not mad skillz...

  7. Hi Leah --
    Another book addict!! You're not alone and I defintely think we are normal...all those non-readers are the strange ones (-:

  8. Hi Emily -
    Nice to know there are people just like me! Believe me, if the experiment sounds like a painful one to you, DON'T try it.

    I really enjoy Wolverine. It got panned, but I think it's a good story (lots of emotion, angst and action). And anything with Hugh Jackman in it is worth a look (-:

  9. Hi Mel --
    I completely agree with you - great books inspire me to want to write better stories.

  10. Hi Rachel --
    Brave or stupid, I haven't decided which
    (-: At least I've learned my lesson.

    I absolutely agree that it has to be a good book. Although I do learn from the *bad* ones - I try to look for what didn't work for me.

  11. Hey Em --
    My hubby huffs and tosses and turns until guilt does me in or I stomp off to the living room. I do have a little clip-on light for my Kindle, but I still prefer to bedside lamp.

    Fuel for the mind - I like that!

    Where are all these fans coming from? Thanks again for being my FB mummy (-: I appreciate the work you do.

  12. Hey Anna, Great post :) I read A LOT up until the time I got really serious about martial arts and began working hard for my black belt. Every bit of my time was sucked up working, being a mum, eating, sleeping and training. I didn't know how much I missed reading until I pulled back from martial arts (after achieving my black) and started again. I think it does provide inspiration - and to be honest I sometimes think the *bad* stories motivate me more than the good ones!! Now I try to read every day and I love it. The only thing I find is that, because I read a lot of young adult (borrowing from my daughters pile!) I tend to start writing that way in my WIP. I often have to give myself a mental shake to get back on the right track :) oh, congrats on the fans you

  13. Hi Rach --
    Sounds like your martial arts was giving you inspiration when you weren't reading.

    I think it's great you can borrow your daughter's books! And reading outside your genre is a great idea for inspiration.

  14. Another book addict waving here, Anna! I do the carrot approach and bribe myself with reading while I'm writing and, you know, I'm not sure that it's working! Might be time to try a different approach! Oh, the relief!

    Thanks for sharing your experience and for the link to that article!

  15. Hi Sharon --
    Using books as rewards works for some but it doesn't work for everyone. If you think it's a relief...I'd say pick up a book and start reading!