Twice a year I go on writing hiatus. I take a month off of writing new material in June and Dec (usually the busiest months of the year for me). It cleans my pallet and helps me to slow down so I can better develop already existing work.
Since this year has been so crazy, I am taking off of editing next month as well. This will be a tremendous challenge for me since I like to keep busy. Sitting still never did me any favors, makes me kinda crazy, BUT one of the best parts of these breaks is the extra reading time gifted to me.
Part of being a good writer and author is knowing what else is out there. It’s important to have a broad knowledge of the classics while also working to keep up with current trends. This can be a huge pain in the ass sometimes because between writing, editing, submitting, querying, keeping up with social media, and working a day job (for those of us who have them-I am so very lucky to have a writing gig that offers me a steady paycheck), squeezing in time to read can be difficult.
Sleep and I have a strange relationship. I’ve never needed much more than 6 hours a night so I can keep up pretty well as long as I allow for creative breathing room. It seems to work pretty well, but I have spent a few years building my skills and feeling myself out to make sure I can keep at it.
It’s like that with reading too. Some of us authors and writers get so attached to OUR work that we lose sight of the bigger picture. In order to be heard you have to listen better. And it’s imperative to be careful of HOW you listen and what you open yourself up to.
I adore classic English Literature. It has a poetic feel that restores my faith in humanity. The thing is, a lot of the technical structure in these works is outdated, and at times a bit wordy. Those stories still captivate the minds of word addicts like me because we’re not just reading for recreation, we are immersing ourselves in storytelling because it is a way of life. Not all readers are like that and in order to reach broader audiences a modern author cannot allow their pieces to be too influenced by stories that have not only been overdone, but that very likely would not have been printed as is nowadays.
So what can you do?
If you love fiction that speaks of times before ours, or non-fiction even that opens up new possibilities even though their conclusions have become common, there is a simple way to maintain a balance. What I do is alternate. I will agree to beta read for an author or pick up a new release and devour it over the course of a few weeks. Once I am finished I will allow myself to read a classic-one that’s been on my list for a while or even something I have already read but am dying to read again.
It helps that in addition to my own reading, I have two little mini-me book lovers. Reading to them and having them read to me adds to the array of stories that feed my mind and I use that to know what is popular right now.
I doubt I could ever say “Ooo this genre is booming, I have to write this kind of story right now!” Trends change, tastes shift, and it’s often random so catering your writing to those uncertainties doesn’t seem very smart, but it is good to hold onto that knowledge and maybe watch how the reader responds or how it affects your thoughts on that particular area of storytelling.
For the first few years of my writing career I was so anxious to finish and get my work out there. It’s common. So many people are writers and being an author is a whole other world. There is nothing like signing a book deal or receiving praise for your work. That doesn’t mean you should rush it though.
I write fast. I used to write like a maniac. The further I sink into this art form, the slower I get. My rapid thought will probably always keep me striving to write more and produce better quality work. That is why writing is called a process.
You have to not only process your work, but you must enhance your skills, and learn from the talents of others. It takes time.
Not only do I switch between what kinds of books I read, but also the kinds of stories that I write. It lends me patience and gives me more perspective. These next couple of weeks I am buckling down to really push myself further because I know that once June 1st hits, I have to focus on absorbing more from other authors. I appreciate this opportunity and am looking forward to heralding someone else’s work for a bit.