There is a growing problem in the writing world today. The ease of e-publishing, blogging, and internet distribution has led to a trade imbalance of sorts. People tend to write far more than they read.
Know your craft and create what you love to consume. Skinny chefs make me nervous.
The following are some suggestions for how Stay-At-Home Writer/Dads can squeeze more reading into their daily routines.
1) Pencil it In. You should be operating with a daily schedule. I’ve got a whole post about it here. Part of your schedule needs to involve reading. Set apart one nap a day for it. Promise yourself an hour in the evening. I will sometimes schedule out the reading of a book in per-day page counts. Whatever you need to do. But write it down, and stick to it.
2) Do Double Duty. Listen to free audio books through Librivox or Lit2Go while you’re putting the kid to sleep or feeding her. When I take Taquito on our daily walk I plug one ear with an ear bud. Libraries usually have a decent collection of books on CD for time you spend in the car or in the kitchen.
3) Be Choosy. You need to read to your kid every day. Find books that teach lessons you agree with, are funny, or use language in interesting ways. Since you’re going to read these books a thousand times anyway, you might as well get ones you like. Right now we are really into Chris Van Dusen for his imaginative poetic verse and the way he encourages creativity. I also like Sandra Boynton for not being afraid to mess with conventions in children’s literature.
What should you read?
I recommend a mixed diet. Clearly, you should be reading tons of whatever you want to write. Magazine articles, screenplays, novels, short stories, poetry, whatever. If you want to be the best at your craft you need to know what others are doing and have done.
Learn From the Classics. Every genre has founding fathers it looks back upon and draws lessons from. The reasons that the classics endure is that they’ve got something to say to succeeding generations. Surprisingly, some of them are still very accessible, and dare I say, entertaining to read.
Learn From Your Peers. As good as the classics are, many of them would have a hard time making it into print today without some serious editing (I’m looking at you Melville). Trends change. You can’t publish your Victorian novel in the Victorian era. You need to conform to modern conventions if you want to convince a publisher to take you on. Learn from what’s popular, but don’t be a knock-off boot-legger, selling other people’s literature styles from under a blue tarpaulin. Be yourself, just be aware of the world you live in.
Down the Rabbit Hole (or) The Wikipedia Approach. Anything you write can benefit from a healthy glob of pre-writing research. Learn about your protagonist’s hometown. Dig deeper into her occupation. Find out what her name means. Reading for research can be one of the most fun experiences in the writing process, leading eureka moments and new opportunities for exploration. Inevitably one factoid will make you hungry for more.
The Sawed-off Shotgun Approach. Read totally random stuff. Walk through a library and pick up the first thing that catches your eye. Boy Scout Manual from 1920. Lonely Planet City Guide for Bratislava, Slovakia. Cherry Tree Maintenance, Care, and Harvest. Geriatric Yoga Poses. Who knows where your next great idea will come from? Curiosity opens the door to creativity.
What about you? What are you reading and why? Let me know in the comments.