To Write or to Read?

Ever purchased a book and just couldn’t put it down or finish a book and the author’s name was stuck on your brain? I am beginning to suspect that today’s writers do not face writer’s block as often as they face the challenge of putting down a well-written, well-plotted book. Please correct me if I’m wrong here.

The balance between the book and the keyboard is the worst one for most writers, ok, fine, it is for me. How much do you read (a lot)? How much do you write? Whether you are contemplating opening a book or continuing to read, or struggling to get a few pages done, it can be a tough act to balance.

My Dilemma began when I purchased Octavia Butler’s, Kindred. Slept a total of … maybe five hours in the two days it took me to creep through the book, reading and re-reading paragraphs. Not because the book was in any way confusing, but because I just had to read it again. It was that good. I suddenly had the urge to own more Octavia Butler books. I found myself wanting to read and read, writing be damned, her words were euphoric.

Being that this was a vacation week, the only chance I had to write was when I was forced out of the apartment by a please. Grudgingly, I went and did the favor. Sat down inside a Dunkin Donuts on my way home and plugged on the keyboard. The keys did miss me. That other place, Starbucks only sees me when I visit the local Barnes and Noble. That will not change because if I visit a Starbucks, I get tempted to visit B&N, next thing I know I’ve spent half my paycheck. Dunkin’s is safe, ten bucks and I can sit for hours enjoying their caffeinated, sugary goodness, without lumbering up the stairs with a box of books afterward.

Ah, but the point – what does a writer do? Write or read? Is there ever a point when you can do both? Personally, I suspect the answer is no. Authors like the aforementioned have a tendency to seduce your attention with their words, so simply and eloquently spread out on the pages of whatever book you found them in. Words that almost make you want to meet the author to both praise and curse them for writing the books that steal your time and entertain so well.

So, how do you balance the acts of reading and writing? I am asking because I see lots and lots of Octavia Butler in my future. What in the world do you do to stave off the urge to read when you know you should be writing? Write or read, that is a really good question. One that we as writers must be prepared to ask and answer ourselves.

Dr Walton
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