Do You Have Permission to Do One of the Most Vital Tasks for a Writer? [In Other Words: Shhhhhh, We're Reading!]

Reading fiction is one of the most important things a novelist can do! But--for me, at least--it can be hard to make time for it. How about you? What obstacles are tripping you up? | lucyflint.com

Well, my wonderful lionhearts, I'm doing it. As I write this, I'm on page 170 of the first novel I've read in an eon.

(Okay, okay. A few months. But it feels like it's been an eon.)

If you missed Monday's post, here's the recap: I took the plunge and announced that I haven't been reading fiction lately. (Yikes!!)

And, since that makes me feel a little desperate, I'm challenging myself to read four novels in July.

(Woo hoo! I love a good timely challenge. Feel free to join me, if your reading levels have been a bit low.)

So, right after writing that post, I grabbed four yet-unread novels off of my shelves and threw myself into one of them.

I started with the hardest of the four books: for me, that means historical fiction, especially wartime historical fiction. (The one mega-exception to my usual reluctance to read this type of thing: The Guernsey Literary and Sweet Potato Pie Society, which I absolutely adored.) 

So I'm immersing myself in A Thread of Grace, by Mary Doria Russell. 

I've missed this fiction-reader's feeling of living a double life: Half of me is here in Illinois in 2016, hanging out with family and enjoying the first batch of summer tomatoes. 

The other half of me is somewhere in Italy in 1943, forging documents, hiking over mountains, probably falling in love with a soldier (or maybe a spy).

Mmmm. Two places at once. That teleportation thing. I love it.

The book is well-written and intriguing, and yes, I'm enjoying it so far. 

But trying to gallop through 426 pages of fiction in a week reminds me of something I miss about taking all the literature classes in college: 

Permission.

When I had three days to read an assigned novel, I did whatever it took to make it work.

I would block out the time, crank through the pages, and drink the lattes I needed until the book was done.

Here's the main thing, my friends: I didn't feel conflicted about reading novels in college. It was homework, it was for class, it was why I was there.

But reading fiction now? 

I have a hard time letting myself do it. I have a hard time giving myself that permission.

Isn't that crazy? 

I believe in the power of fiction, I love stories and storytelling, and my heart belongs to novels forever. 

Also, I'm a writer, for pete's sake! 

I know that reading is vital training for me. As Stephen King wrote, "If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut."

That makes so much sense to me. I totally get it, agree with it, quote it.

So why the disconnect? 

Why do I have such a hard time reading fiction during my work hours?

Why do I forget how valuable and irreplaceable it is? 

Hmmm. That's what I'm musing on today, friends. 

I wonder if it's because, for so long, fiction was my escape. You know? 

It was something fun for my free time. And now, it feels like "playing." Even though I try to remind myself that it's what I'm meant to do, that it's absolutely necessary. 

So. That is the underlying challenge of July: internalizing that permission.

Intentionally carving a place in my work week that belongs to reading fiction. Connecting my schedule to my belief in the importance of reading.

Whew! 

So that's where I'm at. I'm hoping to zoom through the rest of this book by the end of the week. I'll keep you posted!

And now, back to the book...


What about you? Do you feel inside yourself a definite permission to consume plenty of fiction? Or ... do you feel like it doesn't qualify as work? 

And to those of you with special reading goals this month—how's that going? Lemme know in the comments!!