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In an interview last year, the Portuguese Nobel prize winner Jose Saramago was asked about his daily writing routine. His answer was, "I write two pages. And then I read and read and read."
Saramago didn't say how long it took him to write those two pages, but he did emphasise the reading part of his routine and it made me wonder: do most writers devote more time to reading? Or do they write more than they read?
In today's world, unless a person is serious about writing and dedicated to reading it can be difficult to find the time to do either. People today have many commitments and the world offers many distractions.
Once a commitment to writing is made it can be a long time before a person starts writing anything of quality and, as a consequence, young writers often spend years escaping into other people's fiction in lieu of writing themselves. Then, magically, they might develop a talent for expressing their ideas in language; their ideas might not be any good, but the practice of constructing sentences around those ideas becomes far less painful. At this point, a writer might start writing more and more each day, and reading a little less.
I was talking about this recently with the American novelist Elise Blackwell. She said, "I think heavier reading is essential for young writers, but, like you, I moved into more writing than reading. The balance of my reading and writing shifts across the year, and I suspect I'd read four hours a day if I didn't have a day job. In the summer, when I'm not teaching, my reading and writing very nearly even out at four and four. When I'm teaching though, both are reduced – the reading by a much larger amount. The pattern also varies by where I am in writing a novel. I tend to read very little when combing the final draft and of course much more right after I've finished."