When I was younger — when the pressure of six grade felt as if it would be the greatest milestone of my life — I could consume a 500-page plus book within the span of hours. I warped into this world of C.S. Lewis’ fiction and double-ended fantasy and — dare I say it — the candidly loved-but-horrifically-hated Twilight series. This was my way of life. My nose was scrunched into a book while I tuned out the distracting mundane world around me. My aspirations for a writing degree and an education surrounded by peers who wouldn’t scoff at the mere mention of my writing goals was almost dream like. Then, mid-senior year of high school, my dad died. I found myself struggling to remotely glance at the cover of a book, let alone turn a page. For two and a half years I was unable to invest in any sort of genre. Any book I picked up with the intention to finish landed back on my desk with a bookmark settled at the 20-page mark. I became uninvested, uninspired and underdeveloped. My writing suffered because of it. Now, a decade later from the highlight of my reading career, I have 89 percent of both my writing degrees under my belt and I see the dawn rising on my career as a writer. Although college was refreshing and everything I hoped for regarding the writing program, there were still moments that shocked me.
Reading, an actual requirement in a writer’s personal life, demands attention. There is an esteemed pressure to read within the writing community — at least in my experience. Though, don’t misinterpret my intentions. I am a double writing major, the infatuation for reading comes with the territory. I was stunned, to say the least, when I met over three students within the writing program who said they simply didn’t like to read. Though, based on my two-year slump, I could empathize with them. After all, reading wasn’t for everyone, not to say it shouldn’t be. It was when one of the students dared to say, “I don’t think you have to read to be a good writer,” then I choked on my 10 a.m. coffee.
You often hear the most renowned writers, like the illustrious Stephen King, say in order to become a great writer you must first be a great reader. Of course, this is an undeniable truth. If you don’t believe me, read a writer’s work who refuses to believe this mantra and then read the work of a well-versed reader and tell me, honestly, who needs less editing. This is all good and well — I can attest that my writing nearly triples in its ability after I have spent dubious amounts of time investing in the written word — but what about the typical college student? I am quite guilty of sighing with a dramatic breath and saying, “I just don’t have time to read.” If you are any sort of writer — one who struggles to read — you have been met with an irritated eye roll and the saying, “There is always time.” Granted, if we are speaking literally in this context, sure, there is always time. Download a free audio book from your local library app and listen to it on your drive to and from campus, or during x-period pop out a book instead of your phone — this is assuming you aren’t like the rest of us who inevitably have to fit three meetings, lunch and a small political uprising during that one hour break. Between extracurricular activities, full-time jobs, kids, spouses, pets and other miscellaneous commitments, sometimes it takes an act of God and Congress to find our sanity, let alone the time to read. However, it took me quite a lengthy amount of time myself to understand the true intention behind this saying, “There is always time.” Because, I have found, there is always time if you are truly invested in your craft. For writers, we are of a different breed when speaking of the art of reading. We must make time to write, to read, to invest in this craft we have claimed as our own. We must educate ourselves with elements of prose and plays and fiction and genres inside and outside of our comfort zones. After all, you didn’t actually know your comfort zone was truly your comfort zone until one day you took a chance on the unknown and found it to be rewarding. Even writers — especially writers — require time to reflect and enjoy and learn from other writers’ crafts. After all, how do you flourish in your own writing if you do not experience others?
To put it simply, yes, there must always be time to read, because there must always be time become a better writer.