Friday Speak Out!: Remember to Read, guest post by Mary Caffrey Knapke

Friday, January 18, 2013
My writing time is precious – and limited. So when I’m able to sit down for a few quiet hours, I try to get words onto the page as fast as I can. But not too long ago, I was struggling more and more to write anything at all. That’s when I realized I was being vigilant about writing – but I wasn’t reading.

I picked up a few writing guides, but they didn’t inspire me quite as much as I’d hoped. I spent a few evenings looking at a blank page, or typing for three hours about the fact that I couldn’t think of anything else to say. And then, finally, it hit me: I didn’t need to read about writing. I just needed to read. Flash fiction, short stories, travel memoirs, novels, comic books, the newspaper – anything that tells a story. Anything that would indulge my love of words. Anything that would help me continue to develop my own voice.

I started with a decade-old anthology of flash fiction that had been languishing on my bookshelf. I picked up another anthology, this one filled with short stories about Maine. There was a travel memoir about Italy, and another about France. My brother-in-law loaned me a massive volume of collected comic books: The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 1, by Neil Gaiman. That last one was a title I probably never would’ve chosen on my own, but that was the point. I had to get out of my own head and let some new ideas bounce around.

Several of my designated “writing evenings” were spent simply reading. It was difficult to force myself to stop that panicked pounding on the keyboard, desperately trying to meet a self-imposed weekly word count goal. But it worked. Reading allowed me to breathe, to think, and to start fresh. New ideas – and new stories – started to emerge onto the page.

Writers must be readers – in addition to the mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, workers, and volunteers that we are as well. There are only so many hours in the day, so sometimes we have to be creative in finding time to read. Now that I’m back to using my “writing evenings” for writing, I sneak in reading where I can – for example, while my one-year-old is eating breakfast. Sometimes I look up from my book and he’s grinning at me, covered head-to-toe in oatmeal and bananas and wearing his bowl on his head. So I smile back at him and let him play, while I turn the page, and keep on reading.

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Mary Caffrey Knapke has worked as a journalist, English instructor, and independent marketing professional. Read some of her work at
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Sioux Roslawski said...


Yes, we writers have to read. It's like recess for our mind. We pick up (steal) little techniques that other writers use. Our battery "recharges" and rallies our muses. We are able to take a small break so when we return to our writing, we have fresh eyes.

I squeeze (a pun IS intended) reading in to the point I almost always take a book in with me when I head to the bathroom. For Seinfeld fans: Most of my books have been "red flagged."

So Mary, keep reading, and keep letting your little one enjoy the bowl on their head and the Cheerios all over the place. You're both experiencing the joy that is called life...

Anonymous said...

I have discovered this as well. Reading is the best remedy for an absent muse. I heartily agree. Not only do I love to read, but my mind, and often my soul, is nourished along the way.

Margo Dill said...

I just finished my post for tomorrow and then read this--my topic is very similar and Sue wrote about this very topic this week, too. So reading is on our mind. I've started reading on the treadmill--but I can only go so fast or the words are a bit blurry. :) One day, I told my daughter let's have reading time (she's two.) My idea was for her to sit in one chair with a pile of her library books and I sit in my chair with coffee and my book. She thought reading time was a great idea, but not the way I pictured it--instead we read all of her books out loud. :)

Author Leanne Dyck said...

This is excellent advice. And thank you for it. I too have noticed that when I devoted time each day to read my writing flows.

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