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This Writing Life: Binge-Writing vs. Binge-Reading

12 May, 2010
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First up: I’ve subtly changed the name of these blog posts, from ‘The Writing Life’ to ‘This Writing Life’. The latter seems more appropriate, because I’m really concentrating on my own writing issues. I’ve always said that if these posts help other people, that’s fantastic, but I write them primarily to think through writing problems that are on my mind. Anyway, on to the post.

I’ve been thinking this week about my time use and habits in both reading and writing and how the two differ, sometimes quite drastically. There is a standard piece of writing advice that runs thus: ‘Write Every Day’ (the alternative to this is often called ‘binge-writing’, where you only write perhaps one day a week, but sit down for hours at a time and try to get thousands of words down in that one session). If you’ve frequented any writing blogs or advice pages, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have come across this before. It’s advice that I do tend to stick to, as I find that not keeping to a schedule means that I forget what I wanted to write next, lose the tone/voice of what I was writing or start to lose enthusiasm for it. (The exception here is the writing break I mentioned in an earlier post, but that was a break between projects, rather than taking a few days off when I had something to work on.)

So, I usually write every day, but my reading habits have become very different. When I pick up a new book, I tend to start reading it quite slowly, only a handful of pages a day. I may also have days where I don’t touch whatever I’m reading at all. Then, somewhere past the halfway point of the book, I suddenly decide that I want to finish it and have huge reading binges, sometimes spending a whole afternoon with a book in my hand. My writing-reading habits have become the ultimate expression of steady hard work vs. creative bingeing.

Some of this, I realise, is down to time constraints. I generally make time every morning for writing, but reading doesn’t always enjoy the same privilege and has to be crammed into small slots of time, until I have an afternoon free to indulge. I think there’s something more at work than just time though. I think, perhaps, there are parts of me that enjoy both steady work and bingeing, but because trying to accomplish both with writing would probably just hurt my head, I’ve managed to split them up between two different activities.

Finally, a question for any writers or readers out there: how do you find your time use in writing and reading compares? If you’re a reader but not a writer, how do your reading patterns fit in with the rest of your life – with any creative endeavours, with work, with other entertainment?

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