Someone (Stephen King or Neil Gaiman and I’m too lazy to fact check that at the moment) who said a writer must constantly read and if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have what you need to write.
I would very much like to dispute that phrase. Of course, if I am right about either of them saying that, they are both of an older generation and I can excuse them a bit more easily.
I propose that it is not necessarily that one must read. Of course, it does help if one does like books because why would you write if you don’t like to read at all? But I think that it is more of one must consume art and story.
I have not been able to do much reading. Sure I could cut things out of my schedule, things that some people would deem less of a worthy pursuit than reading, but to spend my time playing a game or watching something on YouTube instead of reading after work is my decision. Some days, reading just requires more brain power than I have. Besides, I listen to audiobooks and podcasts on my drive to work and I sometimes get some reading done while at work (perk of working at a library). I still do read books. Just not as many as I used to.
One thing I do consistently is consume art and story. I have watched so many good cartoons and movies with my boyfriend in the past year. I don’t actively analyze them (my brain is just not wired that way) and I don’t actively note how certain things work, but these stories inspire me.
And I argue that it is slightly more important for me to be inspired than to know how the story works. Knowing how a bike works is useful, but if I never even want to ride the bike or never even have the thought that I could ride a bike, then what is the point? But if I get on the bike, start riding the bike, then decide I would like to know how the bike works so I can make it go faster or not tire me out, then yes! I want to find out how the bike works and use that to my advantage.
Enough with the bike metaphor, though. I know how stories work. I know basically where all the pieces go. I can, and have, outlined many books with all of the pieces fitting perfectly into place and the story would be so amazing… if only I hadn’t spent all of my inspiration on writing an outline and knowing how the story ends and feeling locked into the outline because it would be very hard to go back and rewrite the outline to fit any deviation.
My current writing project is inspired by many different stories. Note that I said stories, not books. In fact, I don’t think any of the inspiration for my WIP has come from a book. It’s inspired by a YouTube Minecraft SMP series that I love and a video game that I adore and hints of My Little Pony and the myth of Persephone and the song Welcome to the Black Parade and it’s now slowly being invaded with bits of The Owl House (which is a freaking amazing show and everyone should watch it). And I am not outlining it. I am barely planning ahead. I am following this story wherever it wants to go and watching it grow how it wants to grow and learning how to be excited about what I write.
It is not and never has been that you should constantly read. I think a better guideline for writers is that they should always consume art. Visual art, aural art, textual art, interactive art. Consume it all and consume without judgement. Analyze if you are inclined to do so, but otherwise don’t worry about it.
You can analyze after that first draft. Heck you can analyze after the seventh draft.
P.S.– The quote is Stephen King and it is: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” I decided to actually look it up for you. I still to an extent disagree with this advice, though.