I’ve often tried to explain the Creative Writing Process by saying, “I can lose myself while writing the same way that I can while reading.” And this is so true; it’s part of the reason that I am a writer. I love that escape from reality.
But here’s a dilemma that I sometimes find myself facing as a writer – specifically, as a college student studying for exams, a person with not enough free time: my reading and writing steal time from each other.
I’ve always liked books. My dad would read me Narnia before bed when I was little, and my mom would pick out audiobooks for long carrides. So I blame them for making me a bookworm. But in middle school or early high school, I fell head-over-heels in love with books. Other girls my age were going on their first dates; I was buying my first copy of Lord of the Rings. I distinctively remember spending hours and hours reading when I was supposed to be doing schoolwork. (I was homeschooled, so I would literally spend the day in bed, reading Eldest or The Fault in Our Stars. Then I’d stay up late finishing neglected homework. Don’t tell my mom.)
And then in 10th grade, I started writing.
Once more, I fell in love. I didn’t know what I was doing; it was just a thing I could do where I could sit down with a laptop and spin worlds from my mind onto the screen.
And the back-and-forth has continued, generally fine. But this semester has been busy a lot, and between homework and friends and everything else, I haven’t had a ton of free time. That was okay, though, I was making time for writing. I was squeezing in my noveling time between class and sleep.
But then, last week, I picked up this beautiful book:
And suddenly, I wasn’t writing anymore.
And the book was so good that halfway through, I ordered the next two in the series from Amazon. I’m now in the middle of City of Ashes (book two), and I absolutely love it. But I’m a little worried about my own story – there are a total of SIX BOOKS in the City of Bones series, and then there’s a spin-off series (or two?) and an extra book and AHHHHHHHHHHH.
As writers, we often talk about learning to shove aside mundane duties and making time for our writing. In fact, one of my favorite writerly people on the internet, @inspiredtowrite on Instagram, uses #MuggleResponsibilities to talk about things that get in the way of her writing time. And I get it, sometimes we need to skip doing laundry for a week to focus on our story.
But what about reading? Something I love, something that makes me a better writer? How do I say no to that?
I’d love to hear your advice. Because I’m the dive-headfirst-into-a-book-series type of person, and I’m missing my own story now. But not quite enough to put down City of Ashes. So I’m not sure what the answer is.
Okay then. John Green has spoken.