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How Twenty Minutes of Daily Reading is a Kick in the Creative Can

That early-morning reading was fueling my creativity. To get my juices pumping again, all I need is twenty minutes of reading a day to feel like a writer again.


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Melissa Gouty

4 months ago | 4 min read
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-And how it might save your sanity

The painful reality of having to work for a living

Last year, out of necessity, I accepted a full-time job, knowing that it would put a crimp in the writing I did for fun. (What I do here on Medium is strictly for enjoyment!) I was right. My income-earning work is definitely cramping my style and curtailing my creativity.

Before my new job, I was posting four times a week, waking up every morning on fire to read and write and publish.

Now that I’ve been working, my “fun” writing for Medium has dribbled down to a post or two per month. That loss of creative energy has bummed me out.

Let me be clear. It’s not that I don’t like what I do. I’m a freelance, remote marketer for two businesses in different parts of the country.

I am lucky to have work that jives with my talents and training. I am blessed to be making more money than I made in my previous careers as an English teacher and a small business owner. I’m grateful to be able to make a living from wherever I am, (as long as I have good internet.)

But still, I’m discouraged.

I am not as happy, as excited, or as inspired about anything as I used to be. I work all the time and don’t take time for “fun.” My stifled creative urges are wreaking havoc on my sanity, making me feel cramped and crazed.

I’m on a crusade to find my way back to creative output while working a more than full-time job.

The Continual Quest for Balance

If you have a burning desire to write AND you have to work making money so you can pay for your food, mortgage, and the cost of daily living, you know what I mean.

Like millions of other creative people, I’m searching for ways to be inspired; looking for strategies on how to produce personal creative work while working professionally; hunting for how to balance the daily grind with the daily groove.

In my quest, I’ve made a discovery: my lack of enthusiasm is directly related to my lack of reading time.

The Joy of Browsing the Morning Papers

While I was busy getting my rhythm with my new job, I fell out of the habit of reading every morning. I went directly from sleep into answering emails, planning projects, and generating content — frenetic activity correlated to being a conscientious workaholic.

My creativity plummeted. My work took over my brain and constricted my thinking like a boa ….

Then I remembered.

I used to spend the first half-hour of each day browsing through The New York Times and The Washington Post. Just for fun, I’d see what the world had gotten up to overnight, perusing pages and scanning stories. Information, pictures, and graphs would jump out at me, making me smile, say “Ah hah!” or “Oh, wow. I didn’t know that!”

Reading snippets of the morning news was FUN.

That early-morning reading was fueling my creativity. To get my juices pumping again, all I need is twenty minutes of reading a day to feel like a writer again.

What Studies Show

Evidence backs me up. Any child who starts reading in kindergarten will consume 1.8 million words each year. By reading just twenty minutes each day, that child will have read 851 hours by the sixth grade.

All that reading adds to knowledge and understanding, and children who read twenty minutes per day will score in the top 10% of their peers on standardized testing.

The same is true for older people. Reading — even just twenty minutes a day — increases awareness of other cultures, knowledge of all kinds of disciplines, empathy, and vocabulary.

And oh yes, reading also decreases stress.

Reading also enhances creativity! While it’s hard to find scientific evidence and hard-core studies that correlate reading with creativity, anecdotal evidence runs rampant.

Thousands of bloggers and organizations that promote literacy talk about how reading spurs creativity. It expands the imagination and takes you outside of your present surroundings.

But there’s more to it.

Creativity is all about connections. Creative people are more able to utilize different areas of their brains at the same time. They are also able to make connections between seemingly unrelated facts and ideas, seeing patterns that no one else has seen.

Reading gives you the facts and ideas you need. The more ideas you have, the more interesting connections you can make between them.

The more connections you make, the better your chance at coming up with a unique approach…a.k.a. “being creative.”

Photo by Moritz Kindler on Unsplash

Science, aside…

Science can tell us how reading improves our minds, but it can’t measure the impact of reading on the soul and the psyche.

The “FUN” factor shouldn’t be overlooked.

This week, in a New Year’s attempt to recover my sanity and my soul by tapping into my creative jugular, I’ve gotten back to reading in the mornings.

Why did it take me so long?

In one single morning, I found really cool articles that spiked my interest:

  • The relationship between the MRSA infection and the skin of hedgehogs
  • An Italian guy in publishing who was stealing manuscripts
  • The untamed jungle art of Henri Rousseau
  • A possible scientific explanation for the Biblical “burning bush” in the mountains of the Sinai Desert

In less than half an hour of reading the news, the joy of ideas jumped into my brain again, and all of a sudden, I couldn’t NOT write, jotting down phrases and facts in my notebook.

I have no idea where any of this reading will take me, but just doing it has reinvigorated me.

Reading is a fun, proactive strategy that will get me back to writing strength and mental fitness.

A Do-able Technique for Feeling Good Again

If you are short of inspiration and low on motivation, find a way to spend time reading the stories of great journalists around the world.

(It’s never been easier to access great articles than it is now in this age of cyber-space!) Not only will you learn cool “stuff,” you’ll feel the joyful juice of creativity pumping through your veins again.

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

Melissa Gouty is the author of “The Magic of Ordinary,” and a full-time marketing manager struggling to find a balance between her work and her passion.

To remind herself of who she is, today she’s wearing a bright red t-shirt that says, “I suffer from Authoritis: A painful, chronic need to write. There is no cure.”

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Melissa Gouty

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Content Writer and Marketing Manager.

Award-winning teacher, entrepreneur, and writer. Marketing manager in the HVAC and Optometry industries. Author of The Magic of Ordinary, a memoir of a "Daddy," his daughters, and the power of one good man to change the world.


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