The Read | Write Equation


Following the surprising success of my post, Do you keep a record of books you’ve read? back in November, much has happened. One of my lovely readers introduced me to goodreads and I have built vast virtual bookshelves of books I have read, want to read and am reading. I have discovered the name of the book I remembered (but couldn’t name) and its author. I have even faced up to the number of books I have bought or been given that lie on real bookshelves, quite literally gathering dust as they remain unread. I even set myself the official and public challenge of reading a set number of books before the end of the year.

There’s nothing like the threat of public shame and humiliation to get me moving!

Image credit: Corbis Corporation

This is all fantastic and makes me very happy (well, with the possible exception of how many books I own that I need to read, especially when I’m bombarded by tempting titles on special offer every time I walk into my local bookstored or browse Amazon…). So how am I doing? Well, here we are just past Midsummer and I’m halfway through my list, reading book seven (having got sidetracked by book six – Fifty Shades of Grey – which I read on holiday in just two afternoons flat it was that good!). I don’t think that’s bad going, considering I’m a time-starved working mum who didn’t actually start this process until the end of January. In other words, technically speaking, I’m a month ahead of my target! *Turns round to pat self on back*

Are you sensing there might be another side to this shiny coin, a problem to muddy the waters of my otherwise peaceful reading paradise? Well, you’d be right. The big problem is that book seven has me stuck. Don’t get me wrong. It is a great book. It is a very interesting book.

The book is Alison Weir’s “Eleanor of Aquitaine”. Briefly, for those of you unfamiliar with this woman, she lived most of her life in twelfth century Europe. At the age of only fifteen, she was Duchess of Aquitaine and Countess of Poitiers, with territories consisting of a broad swath of France, as we know it today. She married the French King, Louis, and later Henry II of England (him of Thomas Becket fame), and sources show her to be both gossiped about (ooh err Missus!) and respected.

Women didn’t necessarily carve out their own roles in those days and relied heavily on the protection and patronage of the men in their life. So in a nutshell, this woman must have been a force to reckon with. She not only managed to keep herself safe from several attempts at kidnap and forced marriage on the death of her father, but also sweet-talked her way out of a marriage, while her husband was still alive and it was not at all in his best interests to let her go. She even went on to marry one of the most influential and charismatic men of his time and I’m only half way through the book!

I am enjoying it, I just finding it harder to read in an ‘it’s not got me hooked’ kind of way. It feels like I’m reading for homework, rather than for pleasure – there’s structure, where I prefer plot and factual description where I prefer believable characterisation. I usually find that factual books are slower reads than novels, unless the writer in question is a natural-born storyteller. I think that is the only real problem. It is important to me that I read this book fast – I need to get through my list in time – if for no other reason than to find a dozen books I can eBay to make room and limit the dust in my house!

Nevertheless, I want to write too and I can’t do both as I only have a few hours available each day if that. I tend to read on the tube and write after dinner/before bed. Some might think I should stick to dusting my bookshelves, ironing the laundry or something else I’d find equally mind-numbing, but I’d only burn holes and knock over expensive ornaments so what’s the point? They say if you want to write well, you need to read (and write!) more.

Research, inspiration, plot ebb and flow, better grammar – whatever the reason, reading and writing are what I want to do in my down time and yet they constantly fight each other for my attention.

Do you find it easy to strike a balance between time you spend reading and time writing?

What is your ratio?

© Mayfair Mum, 2012

9 thoughts on “The Read | Write Equation

  1. It’s tricky, really. I’m way ahead of my reading goal (having read 38 books this year), but that may be because (1) I’ve generally been reading fairly easy-to-read novels of only 300-350 pages, and (2) I’ve been stuck on plotting issues with my novel for the last 4 months. Now that I’m back on the writing bandwagon, it will be interesting to see what happens with my reading. I’ll keep you posted. :)

    On a side-note, I have a secret to tell you: If you’re not enjoying/hooked on the book you’re reading, you’re allowed to put it down and read something else. You don’t have to finish it first. Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone.

    • I’m sooo jealous/impressed that you’ve read so many books so far this year! I think you’ hit the nail on the head – I devoured 50 Shades of Grey this week in two afternoons/evenings – it’s all about how compelling the plot/characterisation as to how fast you can turn the pages isn’t it? Factual books are never that compelling. I have put down poor Eleanor at least twice now and suspect there may be another novel waiting to bust her again before I finish…

      Look forward to seeing how you test your voracious appetite for reading as you get stuck back into the writing…suspect it’s a good thing you’re ahead of yourself already! :)

  2. Interesting question. In terms of fiction, I read far less than I would like to. I use holidays as an opportunity to devour novels, but unless I’ve finished the one I’m reading by the time I get home, invariably it gets left by the wayside, even if it’s good. I just never find the time at home. I can’t focus if my husband has the TV on in the evening, and if I try to read in bed I keep him awake. Opportunities in the day as a SAHM are limited to sit down with a book.

    SInce I started blogging I have read a lot of blogs, and that I think still counts as reading. I’ve also started buying collections of short stories, as I can manage to finish those in bite size pieces.
    So, in answer to your question, with regard to writing vs novels – probably I write 90% of the time. Specifically, on the time I spend blogging, I probably spend 50% of the time reading blogs and 50% of the time writing my own.

    I do agree that if you want to write well, it helps to read more.

    • I know what you mean about the lack of opportunities – even as a working mum 2.5 days a week, the tube time I have is filled with conflicting options – do I write my blog, think plot for the dream novel or read other blogs, newspaper/magazine, book…aagghh!! Choices, choices.

      90% writing is impressively dedicated and probably a good route to success. Go for it!

      • “Opportunities in the day as a SAHM are limited to sit down with a book.”

        I couldn’t agree more! Having two rambunctious preschool boys in the house all day, and a shift-working husband who seems to be either at work or asleep all the time, makes it difficult to get any time to myself.

        You know where I get the most reading done? In the toilet. That’s one place where I ALWAYS get to sit down, with or without a book. :) I’ve also come to love talking books, and always have one in the car to listen when I’m driving. Of the 38 books I’ve “read” this year, 6 have been talking books — they generally take about a month to listen to in 15 minute bursts to and from the grocery store and so forth.

      • LOL! I love it! Mental note to self to keep more books in the smallest room! Also like your idea of the talking book…Thanks Jo!

  3. Pingback: It’s been a year already? | Mayfair Mum

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