I'm the kind of person who stresses out if he doesn't do exactly what he's supposed to do on any given day, especially if there's no actual moral imperative anywhere in sight: this is a problem for someone who writes because writing is mostly amoral and yet there are always ten thousand things I feel I should definitely be doing. I should be publishing more stuff, I should be writing more stuff, I should be reading more stuff (reading especially: I've read a lot over the last seven years, but much of it was required, so it never felt quite real, and now I always feel behind). Probably I am attracted to this stuff partly because I can make myself so miserable with it. That's what we all need, right? A little more misery.
Recently I've tried something that's helped me out a lot, though: I treat my "reading time" and "writing time" as interchangeable. Every night when I come home, it doesn't matter if I spend the night reading my current book, writing my own book, or going back and forth. Whatever I feel excited about doing, that's what I need to do. In practice, it usually ends up being a mix of both.
Reading and writing are always connected, but explicitly putting them together into the same time slots seems liberating in a number of ways. I remember I used to often feel, when I was reading something really good, that I had an idea I wanted to go write down. I didn't usually do it, though: I kept reading because that was The Plan. And sometimes when I was writing I would hit a dead spot that made me want to go read instead, but I wouldn't do it because now was writing time. This way is better. I also appreciate the feeling of closeness I get with what I'm reading when I can bring it into such a direct relationship with my writing. Right now I am reading Peter Markus' We Make Mud (about which more later) and I really love just letting it breathe into my own writing.
I think that ultimately this strategy is shifting more time into the reading category, which is probably healthy for me. I'm doing less writing in a word-count sense, but I think what I'm getting from each session is more dense, rich, surprising, and alive: certainly it feels that way to me. And experience tells me that as long as I'm being honest with myself about how the writing feels, the reading experience will take care of itself.
Curious if this is something other people do, or if it's more common to cordone reading time and writing time the way I have generally done in the past.