An article in today’s Guardian caught my attention: Writers should take a year off, and give us all a break. Indie publisher Colin Robinson suggests that writers take a break, and says:
the deluge of writing itself contributes to declining readership [...] the sheer volume of what is now available acts as a disincentive to settle down with a single text.
As readership declines (I’d like to see his statistics, because I recall reading articles suggesting that this is not the case), Robinson says that there aren’t enough readers for the many books written. I think the problem here is two-fold. People are reading more, but perhaps not books; they’re reading articles, Facebook posts, tweets, emails and text messages. So they have less time to read books. “The literary equivalent of channel surfing replaces the prolonged concentration required to tackle a book,” if that channel surfing includes non-book reading.
It can be overwhelming to be a common reader. There are more and more books being published, and being promoted in those spaces where we read other things: on the web, Facebook and Twitter.
Robinson then comes to his main point:
I would like to propose a writers’ moratorium. What if everyone could be persuaded to stop scribbling for a period of, say, 12 months? Of course we would lose some marvellous work during The Year of Not Writing, and that’s not to be taken lightly. But look at the compensations: we could all kick back, take stock, and get off the spinning carousel of keeping up with the latest offerings. Just think what could be done with the free time: books we’ve loved could be revisited; philosophy or poetry could be afforded the time they demand; tomes of previously forbidding length could be tackled with languorous leisure.
But perhaps it’s not writers who should take time off, but readers. I have had such sabbaticals from reading at times. I’ll take off several months from reading to step back from the book-after-book approach of trying to whittle down my to-be-read pile. Each time I do, I come back and tackle some “tomes of previously forbidding length,” or books that require more effort than usual. Or I go back and re-read great books that I love, and that I haven’t read in a while, rather than picking up a new release.
It’s great to read lots of books; but there are times that you should give your mind a rest, and do something else. See a few movies, watch a good TV series, cook for friends, go for a walk in the park or on the beach. Then, perhaps, come back to reading when you have the urge, and can’t go any longer without a book in your hands.