Lately I’ve been trying to finish a project (ugh…3rd Acts, am I right?), which means a lot of reading over what I’ve already written and brainstorming. And plotting, which is turning out to be as nefarious as it sounds, because all I need to plot is the crazy-pants end-o-rama (which is a real technical term). I am firing on all cylinders and focused on this project.
But I got posed the question: when I’m focused on a project, do I read/watch/consume stories that are thematically similar?
For example: if you’re writing a politically-fraught high fantasy, do you read A Song of Ice and Fire at the same time? Or if you’re writing a murder mystery, do you binge watch Murder She Wrote? Is it a good idea to familiarize yourself with what’s out there, or should your free time be reserved for giving your brain a break?
My opinion: both.
Yes, it’s a lazy opinion, but I’m neutral, like the Swiss (I also know how to make chocolate like the Swiss). I think it’s always good to be knowledgeable on what you’re working on, and always try to read up/watch what’s out there. It’s good to familiarize yourself with what’s been done (and what’s been done well) and what tropes you should avoid.
But I also believe in taking a break and recharging. Too much of a good thing can make your brain leak out your ears (that’s how the saying goes, right?). So immersing yourself completely in one genre is not healthy. Your brain needs to stop and unwind every now and then to stay fresh.
So, if you’re mired down in an epic sci-fi horrorscapade, splash around in those waters (which I’m pretty sure consists of the Doctor Who episode “Blink” and the Resident Evil movies), but take a break regularly to scarf down some historical nonfiction or humor novel. Switch gears and flush your system…
…clearly, I don’t understand how plumbing works.
Sound off in the comments: do you read in genre when you’re working on a project?