“I love your idea of 52 books a year,” said a colleague recently. She was referring to my annual reading goal, which I’m maintained for more than 10 years now. “But how do you ever manage it?” she added.
In truth, I adore reading so much I don’t find it difficult. I was the kind of kid who read the backs of cereal boxes at breakfast.
But I recognize that not everyone enjoys reading as much as I do. As well, some might not understand all the benefits voracious reading imparts on all writers. Why should a happily employed — and busy — PR professional spend time reading novels, you ask? The answer is that we are all born imitators. As children, we learned to speak by imitating our parents and, every day, we learn to write by virtue of what we see when we read. If you do nothing more than scan annual reports and marketing magazines, your writing isn’t going to develop the way it could if you read interesting books.
Here, then, are five tips for fitting more reading into your day:
1) Read what you really like. Really! Don’t feel as though your grade 11 English teacher is hiding under the bed — or your English 100 professor is lurking in your closet. You don’t have to read classics and no one is going to report you to the linguistic police for reading thrillers. If you’ve always wanted to read Moby Dick, okay, but establish your reading habit first. Find some books that you can read easily and painlessly and increase your comfort by reading more of them. If you need some ideas, ask friends or a librarian or simply enter the names of other books you’ve read into Amazon and check the link titled: “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…”
2) Read in bits and pieces. Don’t feel you need a two-hour chunk of time to be able to read. I always have a book — or my Kindle — in my purse. Read while standing in line at the bank, read while on transit (although not while driving!), read while waiting for a friend. If you’ve made the right choices (see point 1, above) you’ll be motivated to leap back into your book. If not, make different choices!
3) Have a goal — and make it one you can likely exceed. I like the goal of 52 books per year because it’s memorable and because it translates to one book per week. That said, I almost never read at a rate of one per week. In fact, when I’m really busy with work, I can sometimes go several weeks without reading a book. But when I’m on holiday, I know I’ll usually read a book a day. For me, 52 books per year was a goal I knew I could exceed. Pick one that allows you to do the same — and feel good about yourself.
4) Turn the project into bite-sized chunks. A typical book is 300 pages. To read one per week you need to get through 43 pages each day. Whenever you start a new book, do a little math to see how many pages you need to read a day to reach your goal. It will seem much more manageable this way.
5) Keep a record of what you read. I cheerfully admit to being a tad obsessive-compulsive and confess I started a reading journal more than 20 years ago. Recently, I’ve persuaded my husband to do the same. I note the name of the book, author, publishing date, date I finished reading it and the first sentence of the book, which helps me recall the author’s style. If I feel like it, I might also add a sentence or two about my impressions of the book.
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body,” said the English essayist Sir Richard Steele. Reading widely exposes us to new ideas, fresh images, interesting rhythms and different styles. What we read in books inevitably penetrates our deep unconscious and informs our own writing. That is why good writers are always good readers.
Resolve to give yourself the gift of plenty of time for reading.
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