Friday, December 23, 2011

On the 10th Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me: 10 Pages Turning

"On the tenth day of Christmas,
My true love gave to me:
10 pages turning,
9 ducks a-bugging,
an 8 year old dancing,
7 hens a-laying,
6 cats a-sleeping,
5 More Minutes!
4 calm equines,
3 fuzzy dogs,
2 flightless birds,
and an old farm in the country."
A sad reality of the publishing world is that writers don't read. A few months ago, Salon even weighed in on the matter of non-reading writers. It's tragic and it's true: too many of us are guilty.

I daresay no one ever became a writer without reading -- and reading voraciously. Generally, writers began as dyed-in-the wool reading addicts who would shamelessly admit to reading everything:
Children's books...
Pulp trash...
Cereal boxes...
Shampoo ingredients (what the heck is "cyclomethicone" and why does it remind me of an amusement park ride for junkies?).

But somewhere along the way, the days that dragged when I was nine began to fly. Now mine zip by so fast that if I blink twice, I'll miss one.

Sadly, a day has only 24 hours. In that time, in addition to sustaining a relationship, raising children, letting the dogs out, doing laundry, buying groceries, researching agents & publishers, formatting for Smashwords, cooking dinner, editing, working (God help us) the day job, and letting the dogs out again, we must find the time to actually corral the Muse, get her to cooperate and create.

Something has to fall by the wayside. Too often, at least in my own life, it's reading for pleasure.

I think part of the problem is the "for pleasure" aspect of reading. As if it's a frivolous activity that should only take place when all Important Stuff has been accomplished. Which is never.

But reading, like eating, isn't something a writer who wants to remain inspired can do without for very long. In all likelihood, reading is what made us fall in love with words in the first place. Some writer say they "don't have time to read." Or, worse yet, claim "there is nothing out there worth reading. That's why I write."

Bull pucky.  No offense intended, but reading is the writing profession's equivalent of continuing education. The writer who doesn't make time to read is akin to the doctor who doesn't make the time to stay current on what's happening in the world of medicine. The long-term effects on either professional's career can be devastating.

Because reading is so important, so critical, (and -- let's face it -- so dang much fun), I've implemented a plan to make sure I include it in my life. Every day, I make sure I read 10 pages. That's all. Just 10. There's time enough in every day, I reason, to read 10 stinkin' pages. No matter how busy life gets, 10 pages are a doable thing.

This practice has made me grateful for several things:

*  I have rediscovered how much I love escaping into a good book and am thankful for the writers out there who didn't give up, who persevered, and who saw those books to fruition.

*  I am grateful for the short window of downtime those 10 pages bring to every day.

*  I am exceedingly thankful that those few pages provide me with something to talk about, to think about, and to brood upon OTHER than my own works-in-progress and my own life.

*  Finally, I am thankful for the surprising gift of ::gasp:: Extra Time that I often discover. Because you know what happens more often than not? This writer who for far too long has thought she didn't have enough time to read for pleasure discovers that those 10 pages just aren't enough. And I find the time to shoehorn in an entire chapter... or two... into my schedule.

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