I would venture to say most writers will acknowledge that they don't read when they are in the midst of a project. That is, they won't read something similar to what they're working on or in the same genre. But it seems like we are always in the middle of a project, aren't we? And when we aren't, we may be in a lull for another reason, like perhaps we're choreographing the ballet, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" so we don't even have the brainpower or time to get a book from the library or store.
When I recently returned to my WIP, a dystopian YA, it had been months since I'd read a book. I was consciously avoiding anything similar, which is incredibly hard because dystopian novels are ones I am particularly drawn to read. Some of my very favorites are Susan Beth Pfeffer's "Life As We Knew It" and Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games." Both of those books have sequels I'm dying to read but as I am in the middle of this book, I can't distract myself (or depress myself because, let's face it, those books are wonderful and if I can't get mine in shape like that, I'll be really unhappy) . But neither do I want to read any happy-go-lucky sunshine-y books. First of all, those books are not my cup of tea but second of all, I don't want to be taken out of a mood that might help me write.
So I guess I need to stay depressed.
Who else to turn to but Stephen King? In his book "On Writing," King reminds us that if we want to write, we must read. MUST. That's like, rule number one: Writers Must Read. You should never trust a writer who says he never reads. Bad writer, bad, bad writer. So I gave myself permission to read. In a used bookstore, I picked up a copy of "Duma Key," a novel of King's from a couple years back. I have on my home bookshelf some other unread King novels but "Duma Key" called to me from the store shelf and it was only a quarter.
It sat on my table for a week before I picked it up. And of course I couldn't put it down. King is a master storyteller, that goes without saying, and this book drew me in from the first page. Within a day or two I was already past the halfway mark. But beyond the enjoyment of the novel as a story, I was surprised to find the book had resonance in my writing. Not because it influenced my writing per se but it made me passionate about my story again. I had taken some time away from the manuscript for various reasons, not the least of which was the show I was working on, but also because I had started to lose my thread. I was wandering around picking at a sentence here and there but I couldn't fall back into it - and that's exactly what I wanted to do, what I needed to do.
I was stalled and King's book started the engine. This has been revelatory to me because I had steadfastly refused to read other people's work while writing my own - now I realize I can read to reignite my own passion.