When I first started writing, I had no end goal in mind. I used to write and read like a ping pong ball, bouncing back and forth across the net between reading and writing in rapid succession. In any given day I might read a book of one genre, write a scene in a different genre, and flick back to reading a book in another genre still.
I did this for years, dabbling in reading styles and writing styles and genres of every kind.
I have noticed a change, though, more recently as I have focused on writing complete books … my reading and writing activity now comes in waves.
When I write I become very focused on the writing. It’s like I’m caught up in the process of creation so comprehensively that all I do is write, and I keep doing this until my creative brain is numb. It pulls at me and consumes me, it’s like I fall into the creativity head-space as if it were a very deep well. It takes all of me, and the ideas buzz about like flies, darting in and out of my focus.
When writing, I make lots of notes, jotting ideas down here and there on little scraps of paper, and noting things to check, verify or change.
The speed and intensity builds up until I reach whatever self-directed threshold I desire, such as finishing the draft or perhaps a significant section of the book.
It’s only then that I lift my head and look up and realise that I have been performing the task so exclusively that I don’t know how to do anything else. I look out into the real world; I had forgotten it was there.
During the creativity stage I cut myself off from new information, but after, I find myself reading with the same voracious appetite that I had previously allocated to writing. I often download a few new books to my kindle, and check out the latest posts on all my favourite blogs that I had forgotten about during the frenzy of the writing time.
When reading, I make lots of notes, jotting ideas down here and there on little scraps of paper, and noting things to check, verify or change.
There is probably a third wave around editing, which I feel is a very different skill to either writing or reading, and requires a mind-set shift again. Reading, editing and writing require different thinking patterns, and I find trying to flick between the three too rapidly delivers a poor outcome for my work. I am sure there are plenty of people out there who have the enviable ability to jump between the three activities easily, but for me there is a definite speed and quality drop if I try to incorporate all three too closely together. There is also a saturation point when doing any one of the three for too long, which also has a negative impact.
So for me, reading, and writing (and editing) happen in waves. They have natural saturation points, and when I transition between them I need to relearn / remember the skill again.
As a writer I need all these phases. I could not write forever anymore than I could edit or read forever, and if I tried I would soon find my work bland without fresh input or ideas.
I love the way that both reading and writing generate new ideas in completely different ways. When we write the ideas are internally focused on the book we have in development. When we read the ideas are externally focused, but they still drive changes and ideas for our book. To be a balanced writer and to get the very best out of our work we need our reading and writing waves, however quick or slow they may be.