“You gave up what?”
I’ve always been a “write when I can” type of writer. In other words, it took me a long time to get anything done. But back in January, I made a commitment to write every day that month. I was working on the first draft of the YA contemporary novel I’d started last summer, but had put on hold while I revised another book. This seemed like a great time to get the novel done. So I spent January through March committed to writing every day. And except for two or three days each month, it worked. I finished the rough draft the first week of April.
To accomplish that I needed to give up a few things—keeping up with the bills or the laundry—and I only vacuumed when there was so much dog hair that I could knit a sweater. If I knew how to knit. But I digress.
The more I wrote, the easier it was to keep writing. I discovered I could fit in more of those daily activities I had given up. Except for one thing. Reading.
Yes, I know how important it is for a fiction writer to read fiction. My reading in previous years had averaged a book a week. But somehow, I knew I shouldn’t read while working on my current book. I felt terrified that I’d be sucked into someone else’s great story and would feel more pull to read than to write. I only read whatever my critique partners sent me and snippets of published books to see how other writers handled things like point of view or transitions within chapters.
In those down times, the moments where I normally would have read fiction, I read magazines or watched TV or played four-deck Spider on my cell phone in an attempt to ruin my eyesight. I created new habits. There’s only one problem. I read two books in January as I started this process. It’s now June and I just started the novel I’ll review for the Damsels in August.
I lost the habit of reading. And that just won’t do. Yes, I’ll have to give up watching television shows that are new to me because I didn’t watch them during the spring. And perhaps watch only one episode of MI-5 or Battlestar Galactica a week. But it’ll be worth it. My to-be-read pile is currently a foot high—not counting ebooks—so I have plenty of books ready and waiting.
I have no idea if I’ll give up reading when I write my next book. I’ll have to see what feels right. So tell me—have you ever given up reading to finish a draft? If not, what things have you given up?