I have one New Year’s Resolution for 2011. (I have several business goals for the year, but for some reason I don’t consider those New Year’s Resolutions.) My one 2011 Resolution is this: To read more, plain and simple.
When I lived in NYC and traveled to and from Manhattan by train, bus and car service (late production nights), I plowed through book after book. I have glorious memories of sitting down in a subway car and cracking open a Michael Crichton thriller, settling in for my 45-minute-or-so train ride, and then looking up to see I was at my stop already — how quickly the time had gone by.
Then I had kids, moved out to the ‘burbs, and suddenly finding time to read was a chore, something I had to squeeze in between freelance writing and housework. Reading took a backseat until I went back to school in 2005 to get my graduate degree. Suddenly, I was reading again and loving every minute of it, particularly classics such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin and poetry from Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. Then school ended, and I worried that reading would return to the back burners of my life. But working on Good Girls Don’t Get Fat last year with Robyn Silverman had me perusing some fascinating non-fiction books such as Rachel Simmons’ Odd Girl Out and Rosalind Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabes. And, this year, as I finished writing Baby Grand, I made it a point to read a few novels here and there. I realized 1) how much I missed reading and 2) how much it helps me as a writer. Currently, I’m finishing up John Carlin’s Playing the Enemy (Invictus), which I’m truly enjoying. (As a journalist, this is the kind of non-fiction book I’d love to write!)
I’ve said this before: There’s virtually nothing that inspires me more as a writer than reading good writing. So my modest goal for 2011 is to read at least one book a month. (I’m a very slow reader, but I figure I should be able to do that pretty easily even as I freelance, child-rear, house-clean and work on Novel #2.)
If you are a writer, in short, you must be a reader. Case closed. Writing without reading is like cooking without eating, or teaching without learning. Sure, you could do it, but it’s so much more fulfilling and richer and beneficial, for both you and your end-user, when you open yourself up to everything that’s out there and immerse yourself in the possibilities.