Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Good In Bed

Image result for images of reading in bed

I always paid attention to the advice that there were only two things you should be doing in bed. I probably don't have to get into what those 'two things' are, but reading, working and watching TV are not on the list. They're too distracting and lead to a less restful sleep.

But a change is as good as a rest (or sleep as the case may be), so over the last few weeks, I started reading in bed before I go to sleep. I've noticed that it's really helped with my writing, so I had to share it.

The practice started for two reasons:

1) I'm rereading Dracula by Bram Stoker and totally digging it; and

2) My husband's been doing a lot of work at night and the later I stay up, the later he stays up, so I've been tucking in earlier than usual.

But I didn't want to toss and turn, so I've been taking the Count to bed with me. I sit propped up on pillows in the near darkness with a book light and this old copy of Dracula I've had since I was twenty. The pages are all yellowed and the jacket is a little worn, but it's a great book to just 'hold.'

By the way, all those caveats I heard about not reading in bed are bogus. I've found lots of information that says reading is actually one of the most positive things you can do for yourself before you go to sleep - writer or not.

In fact, according to Business Insider, reading just before falling asleep is top on the list of nine things successful people do before they go to sleep.  Michael Kerr, international speaker and author, claims many successful business leaders mark off time in their calendar every night for reading. And Laura Vanderkam, the author of What Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, says reading helps relax you - and expand your mind.

I agree. I'm almost finished Dracula and I've done most of that reading in bed. I haven't found it's disrupted my sleep or given me nightmares about European counts with sharp teeth. (In fact, I've been sleeping well!) But - more importantly - I really think it's helped with my writing.

I believe it's because reading helps me stay in the 'fiction' mode as I nod off. Rather than thinking about day-to-day reality or worrying about problems, I'm left in the fantasy world of characters and settings and plot. So when I start working the next day:

1) I seem to be able to get into the story more quickly
2) I can write for much longer without feeling tired
3) I have more clarity and creativity to solve problems in the book
4) And - I enjoy writing more!

I can only think it's because my mind stays in the fictional dimension as I fall asleep.

Although the experts say any type of reading is suitable, I'd recommend reading the genre of book you're writing - at least most of the time. Whether that's romance, suspense, supernatural thriller, even poetry. If you're writing non-fiction - say a business or self-help book - I'd recommend reading one of those. I'm confident matching genre-for-genre has helped keep me in the right frame of mind.

Of course, as a writer, you should be reading as much as you can anyway. Stephen King has often been quoted as saying "If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write." And everyone from bloggers to bestsellers insist reading an important part of mastering the skill of writing itself.

More than that, however, as a working writer, reading will be a big part of your job. Editors, agents and other authors will always be sending you books to blurb, review or give your opinion. You can get at least some of that reading done before you tuck in ...

So try this little exercise for a week or so - reading in bed before you nod off - and see if it helps your work. Let me know how it goes! I'd love to hear from you!

Here's more information on the 9 Things Successful People Do Right Before Bed from Business Insider.

I'll keep you posted about the July 11 workshop! Looking forward to it!