Back when I was six, I told the world that I wanted to write books. I had all these weird ideas I’d turn into stories with my pad papers at school and show them off to grown ups with that cheeky little “look what I made” grin. The grown ups with the money and the real jobs cheered me on, but their praise never led me to one lesson I had to learn to be a good writer: I needed to be a good reader.
You see, I was ridiculously lazy when it came to reading material at school. Reading simply wasn’t my thing. I just wanted to make the stuff. I didn’t know what it took to be good at making the stuff. You can have all the brilliant ideas, you can daydream all you want, but if you can’t articulate yourself well on paper, it definitely won’t work. I thought it was enough to surround myself with fantastic video games and movies and pick up big words from the music of Slipknot, but it’s not the same. It’s through reading that a writer learns new words, different ways to structure sentences, and how to craft suspense and emotion that would truly leave a mark. And I’m going to be brutally honest here. Because of my crappy attitude towards it, my reading stamina turned out to be pitiful. I mean embarrassingly pitiful. Like “wait don’t scroll down yet, I’m not yet done with that part” pitiful.
Lately, I’ve been asking some friends about how many books they can read in a month, and their responses made me want to curl up into a ball of shame. By the time time the moon starts a new cycle, some of my friends would have finished four books, others six, and goddammit there are those who can finish ten. I know there are a lot of you out there who are even capable of finishing a book in one sitting. Honest to the giant shark on my bed, such a feat is impossible for me. [Side note: it isn’t healthy to compare yourself to others, but if you want to change something about your habits, do the thing that will make you a better person!]
Last year, I read a total of nine books. Pitiful for someone who calls herself a writer, I know. It’s short of reading one book a month, because there’d be instances where I’d take forever to continue reading. There was even a time when I didn’t pick up a book at all for an entire month (SHAME!!!). When 2018 dropped by, I knew I wanted to change that. January started slow with me only reading Becky Albertalli‘s SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA. I took it as an achievement anyway, especially with all the emotional turmoil I faced when Billboard Philippines oh so suddenly decided to shut down. It wasn’t all that bad though. I’d completed the first draft of my second novel, so that’s gotta be something. Then February came along. I went straight to offering my services as an illustrator (btw, commissions are open!) to a bunch of friends and some kind people on the internet who thought me worthy of their hard-earned monnies. On top of that, I started drafting my third book (eeee!), searched for a new day job, and somehow managed not to get broke. There was absolutely no time to stare at the ceiling and be bored, because I also filled that possible downtime by reading. In the past month, I bested my pitiful reading stamina and finished five novels. FIVE NOVELS. It was a first for me. And how did I do it? I made sure to start the day by reading at least 20 pages before getting out of bed. It feels so good to cry at the end of the book, jot its title down on my Books I Read in 2018 list, and flutter on to the next after a bit of self-reflection.
The books I bore my head into were filled with so much power and emotion that it was difficult to put them down. Sure, I had moments where I felt myself getting distracted or losing focus, but I pushed myself to keep going. At the end of it all, I wasn’t reading just because I wanted to read faster and turn more last pages in a certain period of time. I was reading because I wanted to expand my horizons and explore more worlds and points of view that I never would have been able to if I’d continued to be lazy. And I craved for more. It’s not a competition against those who are able read more than I can. It’s a competition with my past self and I’m hoping that by the end of March, I’ll be able to beat my current top score.
In case you were wondering what five books helped amp up my reading stamina, here’s the list in the order that I finished them:
THE INEXPLICABLE LOGIC OF MY LIFE by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
THE CRUEL PRINCE by Holly Black
SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo
FINDING SERENDIPITY by Angelica Banks
CROOKED KINGDOM by Leigh Bardugo