The Reader-Writer Balance Struggle

read and write

“If only I could clone myself and do both at once…”

Y’all should all know by now how horrible I am at giving viable advice (^_^), but if there’s one piece that I will say should not be an option, it is that which states a good writer is a good reader.

The power of consuming the written word of many, many others cannot be overstated.

Books are very easy to fall in love with. So, it stands to reason that a lot of us writers also become pretty avid readers. However, seeing as how both can be very time-consuming, it begs the question, “If I spend all my time reading, how can I ever get around to writing?” Or vice versa.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how to balance this shit out. It’s really up to you what you decide to prioritize.

Depending on where you are in your writing process, reading can be a crutch, a helping hand, an inspiration or a distraction.

“But beyond reading for pleasure, a good writer also reads with an eye for the writing. Maybe not all the time, but at least some of the time.”

— Write to Done

I truly believe that when I began reading again, my writing improved exponentially. I’ve been writing my whole life, and I’ve grown more in the past 3-4 years than ever because I started reading more.

And I also learned how to pick out what I loved about certain books to apply to my own.

Editing an English language document

“Just another few pages then I can pick up The Soul…!”

Just because you read a lot will not automatically guarantee you godly writing prowess, though. All reading and no writing makes Jack a… reader – not a writer.

So, understand that writing happens in phases – rough draft, rest, revision, rest, substantive edit, rest, etc. – and so, too, might your reading habits.

When I’m neck-deep in a format edit, I’m not gonna be flying through 5 books a week.

When I’m letting a manuscript rest (aside from likely working on another project), I’m prolly gonna take a weekend and devour a bunch of books I’ve been craving for a while.

It’s all about balance. Don’t you think? :] How do you balance reading with writing?

S. R. Carrillo

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12 comments on “The Reader-Writer Balance Struggle

  1. Rachel says:

    I usually write for an hour in the morning and then read for an hour at night. That’s as much balance as I can get depending on how busy I am. :)

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  2. I tuck a paperback in my purse, and steal time in lines, etc. But I’m also often guilty of letting reading take over my writing time! I should start writing in the morning, too.

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  3. One definitely feeds the other, and vice versa. I’ve really upped my reading in the last year or two and have really felt improvements in my writing as well.

    As for a definitive balance, I don’t really have one. I just go with where my foggy little brain takes me at the time. So sometimes I read a lot more than I write (like pretty much this whole year, lol) but as long as I remember the importance of both, I’m not gonna beat myself up about it and just let myself go with the ebbs and flows.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Dominika says:

    This is something I was thinking about just yesterday and wrote a tiny bit in my last blog post. But, to answer your questions about balancing reading and writing – I’m still finding a happy medium myself. I’m much more of a writer than a reader, personally, but then, I don’t include that I read all of my writing constantly. ;). I used to read a lot more when I was a kid, but then that’s because the library was my babysitter during my school years.

    It’s easy to say that a good writer is a good reader, but is it also true that a good reader is a good writer? Because if the inverse is not necessarily true, then what is it about reading specifically that helps a writer improve?

    I’m just going off the top of my head, so bear with me, but I’d suggest that reading can help improve writing in two ways;

    1. The Analytical/Mentor Way – this way would be reading with an intention of being a writer, reading a story with the express purpose of comprehending the decisions that the writer made and how successful they are to you, then extrapolating those techniques into possible actions that you can make in your own writing. This sort of reading helps with the technical side, it makes the eye sharper to sentence structure and paragraph rhythm, as well as how other writers handle dialogue, exposition, etc.

    2. The Inspiration/Rolemodel Way – and this way would be reading without thinking of all that technical junk, but reading for reading’s sake. There is only a glimmer of reading as a writer with this. Instead, you’re reading as a reader for the bulk of this story. You resonate with the author and perhaps their style, but you don’t break down why that is, you don’t go seeking technical answers for why, but if it inspires you enough, you could end up writing a great deal simply by being fired up with creative passion. Some authors that I now read analytically started out this way for me.

    These concepts are similar to what Write to Done might be talking about in their quote that you included; sometimes a writer should read the Analytical way in order to improve their craft.

    Also, reading just anything isn’t equal to reading certain books that are relevant to a writer and what they are looking to accomplish with their own writing.

    When it comes to prioritization, efficiency comes into play and ‘wasting time’ becomes a possibility.

    So to prioritize reading while being a writer, it’s important to understand what you’re about to read and why – what is it that you’re looking for; Inspiration or Techniques? Can you find both in one (reading a story as a reader the first time, then as a writer the second time)? Is it purely the mechanical act of reading that helps improve writing or does it require more in-depth and creative interaction?

    If a writer figures out why they are reading and what they are looking to get out of the experience, then figuring out how to prioritize a balance between the two might become more obvious.

    But like I said, I’m much more of a writer than a reader so it can be tricky for me to think in the identified mindset of being a ‘reader’. Good post, kept me thinking about the topic for sure. Reading can be a powerful tool when it comes to keeping a writer evolving.

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  5. Personally, I only read novels during my breaks at the Day Job, but I read manga and comics whenever I have nothing better to do with my eyes. I’ve learned a lot in terms of visual storytelling from comics, even though my stuff is all text — I like to plan grand scenes and imagine how they’d play out in visual format, which helps me write them.

    I leave my heavy reading to the few times a year I go on vacation. 6-hour plane flights can knock a book and a half off my TBR list, and being away from my writing and my computer chews up a lot more text too. Regardless, I think I get a reasonable amount of reading in just from my few hours a week of breaks.

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