Greetings, literarians. It’s been a busy Holiday season, what with books to read and novels to write. Allow me to rephrase that: books to read or novels to write. Lately, it’s seemed like an either/or proposition. We’ve previously posted about the difficult decision about How Do You Find Time To Write? But we’ve never much talked about how to balance the need to write versus the need to read. Take it as a preestablished conclusion that you must read in order to write, but what are we to make of the dozens of years spent reading in childhood, adolescence, college, er, college again (grad school), as some kind of preparation for a manic writerly binge for the rest of your life. Is that an acceptable form of artistic mania? To only write and never read? If you have only four, no, let’s be realistic, 1.5 disposable hours of writerly income per day, how should one split up the time between reading and writing?
In looking back over the list of books I read this year (that post is coming later today), I realized I’d spent significantly more time writing this year than reading. Posted previously about the pleasurable rewrite of a long lost novel I hadn’t worked on in over a decade. Then, later this summer, I ripped the scab off my graduate thesis at Columbia and gave it one last crucial rewrite before starting “the search.” And, most recently, in the midst of Hurricane Sandy, I started writing what I’ve started calling “The Kentucky Derby Book,” prompting hours of digging through old photos from my days at Vanderbilt, a beloved university in dangerous proximity to Louisville, Kentucky, home of The Greatest Two Minutes in All of Sports. So, yeah, didn’t read as much as I should’ve this year. But if it meant that the writing got done, that’s okay. Right?
Please chime in, chers lecteurs et ecrivains. Let us know your thoughts about this particularly artistic dilemma. Should one write or read? How do you know when one is more important than the other. Feeling pleased with the amount of writing accomplished this year, but some sort of weird readerly guilt about neglecting the pile of books on the floor that seems to be getting taller than ever.