Reading books to fuel my writing (and what books I am currently reading)

Over the past month, my writing has had a number of hiccups, particularly my fiction writing. But more than this, my writing has just run out of steam. After a bit of thinking, and a look at my Goodreads account, I quickly identified the problem – I haven’t been reading enough.

There is nothing new or particularly profound about this revelation, but it is important all the same – to be able to write, and to write well, you have to be reading. Not just every now and then, but all the time. Reading really is the fuel of writing – without it, writing becomes difficult, and writing well becomes close to impossible. Out of all the pieces of advice that successful writers have given to aspiring writers, the most common one has always been “to read, and read broadly.”

So while I could make my goals for March to centre around getting my writing back on track, instead I will shift my focus to getting my reading back on track, and in turn this will help pull my writing along with it. And I’ll start this goal today, with the aim of finishing at least one book by the end of this weekend!

While I’m here, I might as well discuss the two books I am reading (well, the two I am actively reading – there are several others I am halfway through that I’ll return to soon). Firstly, I am reading a book called Billy Connolly: Bravemouth by Pamela Stephenson (his wife). This is the second biography/memoir of Billy Connolly, the follow up to the hugely successful Billy that was written a couple of years prior. This one focuses on the year building up to his sixtieth birthday, and follows the similar pattern of flashbacks to his youth mixed in with the present happenings in his life, and many of the hilarious stories of the things he and his family get up to, as well as many pages of coloured pictures. For anybody who is a huge fan of this legendary Scottish comedian, like I am, this book is definitely worth a read, though I suggest you read its predecessor first.

The second book I am reading is one I am reading due to recommendations from quite a number of other people – The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. I think I have mentioned this once before in a blog (maybe in one of my book hauls?), and this is definitely a book I had been meaning to start for a little while. I am only a few chapters in, so I cannot comment on it a great deal so far, although the language is stunning and the story seems intriguing and is definitely reeling me in. What little I can divulge is that the story centres around two characters – Renée, a concierge of a rich Parisian apartment building who presents herself as a stereotypical uneducated and uncultured concierge, despite a secret passion for culture and the arts, and twelve year old Paloma who lives a few floors up and is determined to avoid a bourgeois future by ending her life on her thirteenth birthday. Both of their lives are soon turned upside down when an unexpected event occurs within the building, and the events which transpire thereafter go on to make up the rest of this multi-million selling novel that has gained legions of fans around the world. I am immensely excited to read the rest of this novel.

What books are you reading at the moment? Do you find reading helps to fuel your writing as well?

20 thoughts on “Reading books to fuel my writing (and what books I am currently reading)

  1. Now that is interesting–I know a lot of authors avoid reading in their genre when they’re working on a novel or long-term project. Some novelists even sometimes go as far as to limit their reading materials to nonfiction or poetry.

    • I have heard that as well from some authors, and likewise with musicians – I have heard musicians who only listen to music outside their genre when writing and recording. But then I know many authors and musicians who positively smother themselves with their genre as well when creating something new. I guess whatever works for each person. I think with writing, as long as you’re reading something, that’s the main thing. I tend to flitter between genres with both my writing and reading anyway. 🙂

  2. From the little that you revealed, I loved The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Hoping to read it sometime soon. And… my writing doesn’t always need to be fueled by reading. But yes, reading does help, in some situations, like when I’m demotivated or looking for inspiration.

    • I think reading definitely helps when you’re unmotivated or uninspired, which I guess was how I was starting to feel a week or so ago. That, and a general feeling of being burnt out, as well 😛
      But yes, The Elegance of the Hedgehog is turning out to be quite amazing. When I finish it I’ll post up a full review!

  3. I haven’t picked up any books in the past while, not since I finished reading … This is terrible I can’t remember the last book that I just finished. Time for me to pick up some new books, though lately I’ve been reading more magazines.
    With the less than nice weather around Tokyo I’ve been stuck at home, in order to write I feel I need to get out and people watch, hopefully the weather perks up soon.

    • Hahaha, well hopefully the next book you read will be something memorable! 🙂
      I know that feeling all too well, being stuck inside because of bad weather. It is both a good and a bad thing I think…

      • You’d think being stuck inside we’d be able to read more, alas that hasn’t been the case for me recently. Think it’s time for me to drop in to the bookstore and see what’s new on the shelves, or pull out my old faithful books and read those again.

  4. Reading definitely gets me back in the writing mode. Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to do much reading, hence not as much writing, either. I’m hoping once I get my new glasses, my eyes won’t be too sore to get started on my to-be-read pile.

    The Elegance of the Hedgehog sounds interesting – and I love hedgehogs! 🙂

    • Urgh, that would be hard, not being able to read because of sore eyes. It’s like that old question, what would you rather lose, your sight or your hearing….I love music and books, so I’d be bummed out either way haha.
      I love hedgehogs too! I also love hedgehog slice…which is completely irrelevant, but true all the same 😛

  5. I must be one of those weird people who can’t read and write at the same time. I find that my writing suffers when I’m reading something and that if I’m writing, I can’t find anything to catch my interest.

    For example, I had started reading “The Warrior’s Heir” but stopped when I needed to start on Feb’s 12in12 challenge. I haven’t picked it up since the middle of Feb. (not for lack of interest, I assure you) and I’ve surprised myself with how much I’ve written.

    But I’m naturally weird so it kind of makes sense…

    • Oh wow, that’s interesting! I imagine though a lot of people are the same as you in that respect! I find the only time I struggle to do both is if I quite simply run out of time (something that seems to keep on happening lately).
      I must admit though, I’m heading into Hist Fic for my March 12in12 novella, and I don’t think I’ll be reading any Hist Fic this month. I think…. 😛

      • I guess it stems from only having a few hours each night to either read or write. I couldn’t do both, it would be impossible because once I start on one, I go until I pass out from exhaustion. Even on weekends if I decide to write I write the entire weekend. When I do decided to read, I devour entire triolgies in three nights.

        Hist fic, cool. I’ve don’t think I’ve even read historical fiction. I tried with Stephen King’s new book (can’t remember the name of it and I’m not even sure it counts) but couldn’t get interested for whatever reason. For 12in12, I’m just doing whatever my brain decides is interesting at the time.

        This month I started *another* novel-sized work when I have two perfectly good ‘fairy tale gone wrong’ short stories to do. Oddly, I think I’m going to work on this project until it’s done…which I haven’t ever done outside of NaNoWriMo.
        We’ll see.

        • Oh wow, that’s awesome though that you can do that, write and read so much in like one sitting or one small space of time!
          I must confess I haven’t read much historical fiction, maybe a small handful of books, but I have read an awful lot of actual history books (mostly because I studied it at uni and now teach it) so I have that to draw on. I know what King book you’re talking about, it sounded interesting that one, but I am yet to finish a King book, so we’ll see…
          That sounds exciting about this new project you’ve started – sometimes random projects like that are the most fun to write! Good luck with it 🙂

          • Ah, not really a small space of time when I get started. There’s been more than a few nights that I’m up till the wee hours of the morning and become a zombie the next day at work.
            You’ve got a lot of information to draw on then, that’s awesome. I admire the simple fact that you’re challenging yourself by writing a new genre every month. Good luck. 🙂

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