Friday, April 4, 2014

Read more, write less?

The two most common pieces of advice I hear from writers are some version of: "if you don't have time to read you don't have time to write" and "write everyday".

Ironically, an unforeseen side effect of my #52books52weeks commitment to read more has been that I am definitely writing less. In part this is for the obvious reason that reading more leaves less time for other activities, including writing (but also catching up on Breaking Bad and Mad Men). 

The less obvious reason is that immersing myself in great books has made the actual task of writing even more daunting. The voice of that nagging and destructive inner-critic that Dani Shapiro describes as "the toxic little troll sitting on my left shoulder" in her excellent memoir Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life, has gone from a whisper to a roar. And setting ambitious reading goals has provided me with the perfect excuse to avoid what I fear.

My solution to this state of affairs is not to lower my annual reading goal, but to set myself the new goal of writing daily (weekends excluded). I am not setting word count or time goals, nor am I specifying what type of writing it must be. Instead, I am following the advice of Dani Shapiro:

"Anchor yourself somewhere - anywhere - on the page. You are committing, yes - but the commitment is to this tiny corner. One word. One image. One detail. Go ahead. Then see what happens next."