This weekend my partner celebrated his 33rd birthday. For gifts I gave him the 2013 editions of Best American Short Stories and Best American Non-Required Reading, because this guy could really use some pleasure reading.
Toku (pronounced like “tofu”) is a prolific writer. He sticks to an unshakeable regimen of three posts per week on his blog. It doesn’t matter how full his days are; he will stay up late if it means sticking to his schedule.
And not only is he writing blog posts like a motherfucker, but he’s also writing his first book and starting a business to design an app.
For the last couple weeks he’s had a hard time with the blogging regimen. He gets it done, but it’s not going so well. He’s published over 160 posts, but the last few have come out very grudgingly.
Maybe you know the feeling. The creative mind throws a tantrum, sort of like a child who sits down in the middle of the sidewalk and refuses to go anywhere. Eventually you coax them into walking but not without some screaming and crying.
The books weren’t my first choice as birthday gifts, but they turned out to be a good idea. When I gave the books to Toku, I told him my theory about why writing has been hard for him lately. I told him he has too much creative output. He’s writing a book and designing an incredible product on top of regimental blog posting. Yet it’s been months since he read a book for pleasure. Too much creative output and not enough creative input.
When I told him this, he said, “You mean BuzzFeed doesn’t count?” No, it doesn’t.
He was kidding of course, but it made an important point. The Internet is not inspiring. Maybe 3% of it is, but to find that percentage you have to dig through the other 97% of poopy diapers, moldy cheese, and fuzzy tupperware leftovers that is the garbage on the Internet. Stay on the Internet too long and your creative mind turns into a drooling mouthbreather.
Reading is important for writers. People like to throw around that Stephen King quote, because there’s some reality to that. Reading is more than an on-going instruction on writing. It’s has new stories, new images, another writer’s language and unique voice, ideas you never considered.
I make a point to read at least ten minutes before bed every night, usually longer. And not books about business, self-help, or crap about building your platform. Well-crafted stories.
Reading is the every day, but there’s other ways, too: art museums, galleries, and art books from the library; listening to an album from beginning to end; nature; people watching; anything imaginative that goes into the creative mind versus coming out of it.
Reading inspires, that’s why you started writing in the first place.