After spending all of 2018 moaning about how I didn’t have time to read all the writing books on my shelf, I gave myself a good talking to and figured out a way to make it happen. Well, mostly I did what my best friend told me to do because she is so often right and wise.
I have started a habit of a ‘non-fiction breakfast’.
It is ridiculously simple: I eat my breakfast and a read a little more of a writing book. I also make a note of what I read that day and any thoughts I had about it.
I don’t get to read much – a page or two at most. But I do get to eat my breakfast calmly sitting at the table (better than at the computer or at the kitchen bench or running out the door). While I was on holidays I kept reading if I felt like it but last week I was back at work and had to stop after about 20mins in order to get out of the house on time.
This new habit has been incredibly successful mostly because I’ve removed all barriers to avoiding it.
- The book and notebook stay in that spot, ready for reading.
- While my breakfast is cooking I get my reading glasses and put them on the table.
- I have blocked out that time at the end of my routine so I have nothing else to do afterwards besides grab my things and leave.
- I’m using the ‘chain’ method – the aim is not to break the chain of days I do this (idea comes from Jerry Seinfeld) and I know this method works well for me.
- I can choose anything to read, dip in and out, skip forward, abandon, flick around, re-read, whatever I want.
When I go out for breakfast, I have to take my non-fiction book and notebook and read at least a little bit. This works because I rarely meet other people for breakfast – often my partner is doing a run – and if my partner is there he is just as happy to read as I am.
So far I have:
- finally finished The Art of Fiction by David Lodge (I was supposed to have read this last year during my uni unit)
- revisited some of Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg (my copy is so old it has puppy chews on it from my puppy who had a long, long life and left me more than three years ago)
- read the last part of Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott again (which made me laugh so much I couldn’t eat)
- and have made my way through the first two lectures of Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster (which is either astoundingly brilliant or incomprehensible in equal measure).
On Friday last week I read a brilliant bit of Forster then listened to George Saunders be brilliant on a podcast on the drive to work and it was an utterly delightful way to start the day!
The satisfaction of having inched my way forward rather than complaining I wasn’t doing it, has been another reward.
There is one exception, one reason why I’m allowed to skip this routine, one thing that is worth breaking the chain for (and it doesn’t happen often because we live 40mins away):
Bonus good-for-you pancake recipe (goes beautifully with non-fiction reading):
1 small-medium ripe to very ripe banana
2tbsp quick oats (optional)
maple syrup (optional)
Mash banana. Crack eggs into banana and beat until mixed. If using, add oats and stir. If using, add blueberries and stir. Heat pan on medium-high heat and spray or drop a little bit of oil in. Use a large desert/serving spoon to ladle mixture into pan in small ‘pikelet’ sized pancakes (if you make it too big it is hard to flip). I can fit three at once in the pan I use. Wait a few minutes. I often turn the heat down slightly at this point. Quickly flip pancakes over. Wait a few more minutes. Put onto plate. Repeat with remaining mixture. Dribble maple syrup over the top, if you are using it (actually, the banana makes the pancakes pretty sweet anyway). Enjoy!
Do you read non-fiction writing books? How do you fit it in?
Or perhaps there is something you love doing that you thought you didn’t have time for but have worked out how to make it happen – I’d love to know about it!