To write or to read?

Okay, help me out here. I want to know what you think.

One of the constant struggles I experience is deciding how much of my limited time to spend reading instead of writing. My free time each day is in limited supply, so I want to use it effectively. But what is really most effective? As is often the case, the answer is probably: “that depends.”

For example, I’ve heard some writers complain that if they try to read someone else’s work while working on their own they find themselves unconsciously adopting that writer’s style or borrowing their ideas. And I’ve heard from others who feel it very helpful to read books with a similar setting or era or language style to help “get them in the mood”. For example, someone writing books set in Regency England might want to read Jane Austen novels at the same time.

Others are able to compartmentalize their reading and their writing so that never the twain shall meet. This may be easier to do if what they are reading is quite different from what they are currently working on. Reading a fantasy while writing one might make it difficult not to “borrow”, but reading a biography or a romance might make cross-pollination less of an issue.

But should we as writers even be reading others’ work while writing? Tell me what you think. Do you find that reading another book during the writing of your own results in unwanted cross-pollination? Do you find it actually benefits your work? Do you find there’s not problem at all keeping the two separate? Tell me your experiences, and what you do to keep reading from negatively impacting your work–or how you use it to enhance your work!

The lines are open! Call now! (Ie. comment below)

Thom Stratton

About Thom Stratton

Thom is a Utah transplant, works for a regional bank, and spends his lunch hours working on his latest novel. His wife, three kids, and four pets find him amusing and somewhat useful, so they keep him around.