As a writer, something I struggle with, ironically, is reading. How can that be, you might wonder? And I wonder the same. How am I ever going to be successful as a writer if I don't do something as simple as reading?
Reading exposes us to other styles, voices, forms, and genres of writing. Reading helps writers improve. Roz Morris once said, "Reading—the good and the bad—inspires you. It develops your palate for all the tricks that writers have invented over the years. You can learn from textbooks about the writing craft, but there's no substitute for discovering for yourself how a writer pulls off a trick. Then that becomes part of your experience."
Nicholas Sparks writers that all writers should read, and they should read a variety of material:
"Second, you must read, and read a lot. Did I say A LOT? I read over a hundred books a year and have done so since I was fifteen years old, and every book I've read has taught me something. I've learned that some authors are incredible at building suspense (see The Firm by John Grisham), I've read others that scare the jeepers out of me (see The Shining by Stephen King). Some authors can weave an incredible number of story lines into a single, coherent novel, with all parts coming together at the end that makes it impossible to stop turning the pages (see The Sum of all Fears by Tom Clancy), while other authors make me laugh out loud (seeBloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore). I've also learned that many, many authors fail when attempting to do these things. By reading a lot of novels in a variety of genres, and asking questions, it's possible to learn how things are done—the mechanics of writing, so to speak—and which genres and authors excel in various areas."
I could try to blame how little I read now on elementary and middle school - reading books I wasn't all that interested in and having to write book reports on them, and answering tough questions, which I, at the time, didn't find useful, practically zapped my love of reading. I always found it hard to read two books at once, so if I was assigned a book at school I would set aside what I was reading for that purpose.
Over the years, my book collection has grown. I'm inching away at running out of space on my shelf. I think I own a fair amount of books of my own, and now that I'm an English major the number increases every semester, as does the number of books I read. Again, I'm reading these books because I have to. I enjoy them, yes, and lately, I've been enjoying the work for them.
But how, exactly, do I make reading a daily habit?
This article by Kevin Lee has tons of fascinating, yet shocking, statistics about how much and how little people read. A study by the Pew Research Center "found that adults read an average of 17 books a year." The same study says that 19% of American's don't read any books. A study from the Huffington Post showed that 28% of American's haven't read a book in the past year.
Shane Parrish, from the Farnam Street blog, read 14 books in March. He tackles several books like this every month because he makes reading a priority. He cuts time out from other activities. The average American watches 5 hours of TV daily; easily, this can be reduced. Try reading first, for about three hours, and then watch TV. Read before you sleep instead of watching TV or browsing social media; it'll actually help you sleep better.
A lot of people recommend keeping a book on you for those moments you have empty time (commuting to work, or during lunch, or when you're re-watching old TV shows) if you have a book on you (or near you), read instead of scrolling through social media.
Often times I think about reading, and then realize "Oh, I don't have enough time to read." And then end up watching something instead. But if I can watch a 45-minute episode of Law and Order: SVU before bed, why can't I spend that time reading instead?
Psychologists also recommend using different spaces for each part of your day - don't do homework in bed, or anything stressful, otherwise you'll begin associating your bed with stressful activities, so do your homework at a desk instead. With that in mind, if you have a dedicated spot for reading, soon reading will be associated with that spot, and every time you sit there, you'll want to read. Similarly, every time you sit at your desk you'll be encouraged to work.
Reading is important, and there are several benefits, such as mental stimulation, stress relief, improved sleep, better memory, improves concentration, and vocabulary expansion.
Reading daily might sound a little bit daunting, but I've realized by writing this article, it's actually really easy.