Finding Time to Read

Read MeIn our last exciting episode, we talked about the reasons why writers should also be readers. And as promised, I am here this week to stave off the objection I know for sure is coming: “But I don’t have time to read!”

Sure, you do. You just need to take a look at your day, and plan ahead a little bit.

I’ve got my own strategies, but I figure I don’t know everything (as my children are only too happy to remind me). So I posted the question on my Facebook page: When and how do you find time to read? And I also polled some experts on finding reading time: my friends at, the official message board for fans of Stephen R. Donaldson.

The advice I received ranged from the sublime (“Pretend everything you read for work is fiction – most of it probably is”) to the somewhat ridiculous (“You were born alone, you’ll die alone… pass the time between existential voids with books!”). In between those extremes were some nuggets we can all use to maximize our reading time.

  • Probably the most popular time for reading, in my highly unscientific poll, was right before going to sleep. Melody Stiles says it’s a ritual for her. Timothy Hurley says he spends two to three hours a night reading before bed. This is one of my favorite times to read, too; I’ll read either until I can’t keep my eyes open, or until the words I think I’m reading aren’t the ones on the page. (Sometimes the story my half-dreaming mind makes up is better.) The only danger is that if you’re deep into a really good book, you might not know when to quit. Many’s the time I have finished the final chapter of a satisfying novel and only then realized it was three o’clock in the morning.
  • The next most frequent piece of advice was to always carry a book with you. Then when you’re in line at the bank or the DMV, or waiting at the doctor’s office, or anywhere else where marketers have plunked a TV screen in front of you, you can pull out your book. Smartphones make it easier than ever to do this; with a Kindle or Nook or Kobo app on your phone, your library is always in your pocket or purse. (As an added bonus, you can switch to your phone when your Kindle starts yelling at you to plug it in. Not that I’ve ever done that.)
  • Skip watching TV and read instead. Or read during the commercials and the boring bits (which, depending on the program, might cover most of the hour).
  • Read while commuting. I commute by bus and subway, so I always take a book to work with me.
  • Read while eating. Why stare at the cereal box or the depressing headlines in the paper, when you could be reading a book?
  • Read in the bath. Caroline Gebbie says she brings a paperback in the tub with her. It would probably be best to leave the Kindle elsewhere.
  • Read while doing other things in the bathroom. Don’t look at me like that. This is not a new concept. Ever heard of Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader?
  • Use some of your writing time as reading time. This might work especially well for writers whose families grant them only a precious few minutes each day to write. You could set aside a fraction of those minutes for reading; since the door to your lonely writer’s garret will be shut, your family will never know.
  • A couple of people mentioned audio books. Ken La Salle listens to them while on long walks. (One of my Kevinswatch friends reads books while walking, but that might best be left to professionals.) Speaking of commuting, which we were just a minute ago, a friend used audio books to make her multi-hour daily commute bearable.

So there you have it – a whole host of suggestions for finding time in your day to read. The biggest challenge is probably for parents, because – as I know from experience – kids tend to suck up a lot of your free time. But as I also know from experience, they do sleep. Eventually. Most days.

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

13 thoughts on “Finding Time to Read”

  1. Love it. I’m the before-bed reader. It’s such a habit that I can’t fall asleep without my reading time. Also, I haven’t tried this myself, but I’m told that sealing the Kindle in an airtight plastic bag makes it tub-worthy.

  2. Good points, Lynne. I am retired and, though I don’t live alone (the young lady I share my apartment with is not here often as she has two jobs and spends a lot of her home time in her own room) can basically read whenever I choose. I read when I first get up in the morning – a Christian inspirational book plus the Bible. I read when I am eating – whatever I happen to have handy whether fiction or non-fiction. I read before I go to bed – usually something light that doesn’t get me stirred up to keep me awake or something I have already read. I have read over 40 books since the beginning of this year – many different authors, different genres, old classics as well as those by authors I have never heard of before.

    When I was a child and even through high school, I hated to read. I have no idea what caused the change, but once I hit my twenties I started reading and haven’t stopped yet. I love to read and I think it has helped me to develop my writing in a way it never would had I not read so much. I can get lost in a book, especially fiction, and not realize how much time has passed. Like you, Lynne, I have read into the wee hours of the morning at times, but try not to do that now. Sometimes I have to make myself put the book down so I can get something else done. I don’t have cable, so get no TV stations. That helps. I do watch movies, and I believe that has also helped me develop my story-telling, especially dialogue.

      1. Yes. I try to quit before I get to the point where my eyes are dragging my brain across the pages because they want to see what’s next. My brain likes to sniff around and sample sentences and stuff

  3. I think I’ve done all of the above at one time or another. When I lived in Sydney, like any big city, I did the public transport thing. I always carry a book if I’m going to appointments, any appointments, there’s always some waiting time. If I’m travelling any distance by car I love audio books. I always have at least two books next to my bed; but I do tend to fall asleep fairly quickly, regardless of how engrossing the book.

    I must admit though that I find less time these days to read – being in a little country town (no travelling time), having to do some day work and some night work and some writing, all spare time taking (no spare time) – and it’s more than a little frustrating.

    Great post, Lynne.

  4. If you read a book that is great, and you can’t wait to see what will happen next, the reading is automatic. You would rather read the book than most anything else…it becomes your free time and your recreation.

    Choosing the right book means having to find time to do other things THAN read.

  5. Laughed out loud at most of these, Lynne, and follow all but the one about reading in the bathtub [don’t have a bath and I’m loathe to try my Kindle in the shower].

    I think the take home message is that if you need to read you’ll make time for it.

    Oddly enough, the only times in my life that I have gone for extended periods without reading were …when I was deliriously happy. Guess I must have been garden variety happy the rest of the time. 🙂

  6. The biggest challenge for me, is finding the right book. I only have so many hours in the day, and I have a pretty set schedule and routine. I often spend weeks skimming intro chapters and prose before settling on what to read. Right now, that’s Patrick Gale. I love the way he plays with words, even though his characterization can be hit or miss.

    I do agree with the reading before bed trick that many people have mentioned. Its usually the best part in the day to get anything done (when everything else is done).

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