Reading? A waste of time? Never.

I was going to cram a lot of stuff into this weekend. Lots of stuff.

If you’re like me, you work long hours during the week and weekends become the spillover do-all-the-other-stuff days.

But it’s July. It’s hot as hell out. I have a nice cool porch. And I’d bought a book Saturdayby one of my all-time favorite authors.

I did some of the stuff I needed to do. But not much of it. Hardly any, actually.

I sat on my porch and read instead.

I know some people believe reading is a waste of time. Or if not a total waste, it’s something that should be done when there’s not something “more important” to do.

But I didn’t feel guilty at all about not doing all those things on my long list, even the ones related to my own writing that I’d been putting off.

Taking a vacation from vacation to read. Members of my family do just that at Baxter State Park last year. This wasn't planned, BTW. It just happened.
Taking a vacation from vacation to read. Members of my family do just that at Baxter State Park last year. This wasn’t planned, BTW. It just happened.

Reading should be a top priority. Easily as important as many of the things on your list. More important that a lot of them.

For writers, few things are as beneficial to your craft as reading. Every writer should make time to read for pleasure. I can say this with certainty: if you aren’t a good reader, you’re not going to be a good writer. I always learn about writing from reading. Granted, I learn more from poor writing than good writing. When I’m reading something that’s poorly written, I’m thinking about the writing and what’s wrong with it.

So-so writing — those books that are not great, but not bad — can also be a good lesson. What that writer did, how it could have been done better. It’s hard to be a writer and not think about those things while reading. Hopefully it becomes a tool for your own writing.

It’s good writing that’s the problem. If you’re like me, you get pulled into the story don’t thinking about the writing at all. It seems effortless and you forget you’re reading. You’re just there.

The book I spent the weekend reading is good. Really good. Maybe I’ll talk about it more in a blog post on another day. The author isn’t a mystery writer, but as I start on my third mystery novel, I’m trying to understand what it is that makes his writing so good, while at the same time trying not to wreck the experience by picking it apart while I’m reading. It’s easy to not wreck the experience, because I keep forgetting to think about the writing until I’ve put the book down.

That’s the short lesson today for writers, but even non-writers should take the time to read even when they think they’re “too busy.”

I won’t go into all the reasons reading is important and necessary to life. You’ve heard them all. I will say this, though: Our lives are busy and crammed with duties, obligations, thoughts, conflicts, obsessions. All sorts of things that we don’t choose to think about, but have to get through. We’re poking and swiping at screens, busy busy busy liking and sharing and comparing. It’s very hard, with all the things pulling at us, to get out of our lives and our heads for a few hours.

Pick up a book, a good book, though, and it’s just you and the book. All that other stuff can go away. Nothing is more important than taking that kind of break.

I could go on and on, but it’s still hot out and tomorrow’s Monday.

And I’m only halfway through that book and want to turn off the computer and get back to it.

Maureen Milliken is the author of the Bernie O’Dea mystery series. The second in the series, No News is Bad News, was released earlier this month. Follow her on Twitter @mmilliken47 or on Facebook at Maureen Milliken mysteries. Go to maureenmilliken.com for more information or to sign up for email updates.

EVENT: Maureen will talk about writing, mysteries, Maine and other stuff, sponsored by Maine Today Media, at the Maine Lakes Resource Center, 6 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 10. Go to centralmaine.com for more information and to sign up for this free talk. Light refreshments, of course!

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