I used to get really precious about reading (lots of) books while I was writing a project. It didn’t matter if that project was a short story, or a novel, or an album review, or even if it was a writing exercise I’d given myself.
‘What if the thing I want to read changes me?’ I’d fret. ‘What if I read something and that something causes me to lose my momentum? Or maybe it could push what I’m aiming for out of my reach?’
This is the immaturity of an early stage writer. A well-rounded, mature, experienced writer would (after scoffing at these cutely sad thoughts) actually encourage the earlier me to read more, to read everything, and to read voraciously as if the reading appetite may one day leave me. It never has, obviously.
But one thing has happened as I’ve diversified my reading tastes and as I’ve continued to read as many books as I can (21 books read so far this year, as at June 2023), and that one thing is… learning. It doesn’t matter what I’ve read. Or who it was written by. I can guarantee that I have learned (or learnt, if you prefer) something from it. Or learned something new from that writer. It might have been a turn of phrase, or the way a particular passage was constructed. Or it could well have been how a narrative was delivered. Or even how two or three characters spoke with each other in the round, and how they reacted to each other.
What I’m trying to say here is that despite my preciousness and immaturity, reading has complemented my writing at almost every turn. I say ‘at almost every turn’ because to read something needs time, and dipping into reading time takes away my writing time. But reading is actually an integral part of writing. I love reading. I wish I could do more of it. I think I love reading as much as I love writing. This feels like a good point of balance in my life. Long may it continue.