This year, I have read more books than I have in the past three years (individually). I sit here trying to think what the difference is. My schedule has been far crazier than in previous years (I have been out of town for a collective 7 weeks), I am juggling several blogs, working more with Dad, I launched The Warren, and I'm teaching two different classes. So if my schedule hasn't changed for the easier, how is it that I'm racking up book after book on my Have Read list?
Quite simple: I shifted priorities.
People who say they "do not have time to read" don't mean that. We all have time to read. We all have time to do lots of things. There isn't a single man on earth who has more than 24 hours allotted to him. So when you say "I don't have time" what you really mean is, "I'm not making it a priority." Don't argue on this. Maybe you feel that you don't have time because you aren't the one in charge of your priorities. (i.e. your parents have you taking dance, theatre, and soccer twice a week, or you're in college and your professors have claimed every ounce of brain-matter in your body) But in these cases, we ought to say what we mean: "There are other things higher on the priorities list."
I used to say that about reading. There were other things higher on the priorities list: things like blogging so that I could keep connecting with readers and other writers; things like writing so I could legitimately keep up a writing blog. But after last year when I only remedied a scary, paltry book list by cramming in the last two or three months, I realized that the quality of my writing is directly related to the quantity of my reading. To state the case in perfect frankness: when I'm not reading, my writing suffers. It's that old problem of wearing out your brain in one channel; overusing your mind so that the activity wears a sore furrow in one place. Soon you'll find you're left with no inspiration, little wit, and small willingness or interest in moving along.
And I'm not talking about books that are related to writing or have something to do with the subject you are writing about. I'm talking about reading for reading's sake. I went to the library and picked up The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir, which is a deep look at Richard III's (alleged) murder of his nephews and how they figure it is probably true. I'm not writing (or planning to write) a book about the Wars of the Roses; it was simply an interesting book that I wanted to read. And I enjoyed it in its fullness and returned it on time to the library. (*smirk*) I remember Jenny saying something a long while ago about making time to read, even if it was one chapter before bed; I agree entirely. Bring a book into the kitchen while you make dinner. Bring one in the car on the way to your dance lessons or theatre practice. Read instead of planning another blog post or checking Facebook once more, or scouring Pinterest for that perfect face for one of your characters. None of you want to surrender yourselves to self-chosen ignorance. Imagine 'fessing up to that one: "I'd rather play Wii than read because my mind needs a break." Okay, so maybe you could use to be "brisked round and brisked about" but reading is a break for your mind because it uses a different part of your brain than writing does. Most often when we complain that our brains are tired, what we mean in actuality is that we've worn a sore furrow in that one corridor and it's complaining loudly.
Click out of your Word document. Close down the Facebook app or the Pinterest page. Shut the laptop completely (and who the heck wants a Kindle?) and take up one of your castaways. Crack the spine and crunch up a receipt for a bookmark, and remember the good old days when you "had time". Believe me, it's worth it.