I spent much of my time in graduate school lamenting the fact that I spent so much time reading for class that I didn’t have any time to read for myself. Conversations with acquaintances about my background often included the question “What are you reading?” to which I learned that Genre Knowledge in Disciplinary Communication was not the preferred response. In those final weeks of school, I created a Goodreads account, an extensive (but not exhaustive) list of books to read in 2017, and gave myself the New Year’s goal to read 35 books.
As of May 30, I have read 55 books.
This was not totally intentional. It helped that I was working only part time; now that I am a full-time employee, I expect my reading numbers to drop dramatically. But I found that once I fell into the dreamy abyss of reading that it was easy to develop a reading routine. I experimented a lot: the books included literary classics, 600-page manga omnibuses, short story anthologies, self-help books, and young adult fantasy and horror novels. I found at least one book in each genre truly enjoyable.
I have only felt positive effects from this new habit. Reading dozens of books has helped me as a person, especially in my communication and coping skills. I find that casual conversation comes easier to me now, as if the characters and dialogue I’ve read have prepared me for new experiences. Reading has also proven a excellent stress reliever. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I just go into another room, close the door and get lost in a story.
Where I see the greatest differences are in my analytical and writing skills. My critical think improved, especially in reviewing media: my reviews on Geek Volcano have become both shorter and better. I find it easier to make connections, predict, and find common tropes. I no longer find the need to summarize unnecessary details, letting my commentary paint my interpretation of the episode (or movie, or book, etc.)
My writing skills have greatly benefited, mainly because I’ve familiarized myself with genre elements and some common patterns of good story and character development. I recently finished reading a self-published novel which had the best intentions but was poorly executed. In fact, it had a lot of the pitfalls of my unfinished novel that I currently consider nonpunishable: namely, rough pacing, more telling than showing, and flat characters. Before I couldn’t unable to pinpoint why a book didn’t seem good. This one in particular had it’s greatest issue in that it was written like a movie or a comic book – which happen to be the media that the author enjoys most. Just as a good artist familiarizes herself with the techniques of the greats before her, a writer must read.
I think the greatest benefit that reading has given me as a writer is that my confidence in my writing increased, causing me to write more. With more writing, I have seen even more improvement. I was afraid of awful sloppy drafts until I realized that even the authors who I respect deal with them. I also edit more judiciously (i.e., killing my darlings) because I know that if something truly is good, I can use it in a future work where it fits better.
I haven’t decided yet how I am going to balance my reading and writing time with my new schedule. Maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll hit 100 books by the end of the year! But I feel like it would be an even better achievement if I produced one book that I consider publishable in that time instead. Still, keeping up on my reading will help me reach my writing goals, too.