Confession: I spent most of my teenage years in my bedroom reading, but in the last decade, I’ve finished more biographies and books on writing than novels. (Before that, as a doctor, I spent the time I wasn’t working or studying, eating and sleeping.) This is not good. Non-fiction inspires articles, but if I want to get better at fiction, you need to read that.
Stephen King says, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.” But nevertheless, it’s felt like an indulgence. King has a wife and fewer children than me. It took a Youtube video with Ian McEwan to change my ways.
He sees reading as much a part of his working day as writing and spends an equal amount of time doing both. He’s doing something right, so I picked up a novel- This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell. As I was away for my birthday, I felt no guilt devouring it in a weekend. Since then, I’ve made sure I always have something to read in my bag and in the last ten weeks, I’ve read eight books.
It may be that I’ve now entered that phase of parenting where reading when the children are around is OK, even advised. They need my presence without constant observation.
I don’t know what effect this reading has had on my prose, but counter-intuitively, it’s already improved my productivity. Enjoying other people’s words with no sense of responsibility for their use, living in the world’s they’ve crafted, I feel so much more inspired.