You Can’t be a Reader and a Writer

– by Tony Jones


A long time ago, someone told me, “The best writers are great readers.”

The thinking was that if you read a lot — and read good stuff — you’ll figure out the English language works, how to develop an argument, how to construct a persuasive claim.

Fair enough. I think there’s truth there.

But more recently, someone else told me, “You can’t be a reader and a writer. There isn’t enough time. You have to choose.”

And I think this latter person was right, too. Maybe more right.

I’m at the point where I need to quit pecking away at Why Pray? in my free time. I need to write every day, no exceptions. I need to write thousands of words in the coming months, and then go back over the words and revise, revise, revise.

Meanwhile, the list of books that I want to read before I die continues to grow. Books on philosophy and theology, classics of literature, new books and old, pile up on my desks and in my Kindle. Plus, the newspaper arrives on our doorstep every day, and Google Reader is full of myriad unread posts that I want to get to.

I am beginning to think that it’s true: If I want to be a writer — a truly good writer — I probably cannot be a reader, at least not the extent that I’d like to be.