If you’re anything like me, you love to read. There’s so much that reading can do for us as writers.
Reading others’ work can help us hone our craft. We can pick up witty turns of phrase, grammar rules that we weren’t previously aware of, and tips on how to write with real passion.
Above all that, though, we read to learn. Chances are you’re here right now because you’re itching to learn something about freelancing. And I don’t believe that there’s ever a limit to how much you can or should learn.
…when it gets in the way of taking action.
The old saying “Those who can’t do, teach,” takes a little bit of a different spin for us writers.
For us, it reads more like “Those who really really want to do, but don’t feel like we’re quite ready, and maybe just need a little bit more time to work things through, and if we only read this one more blog post then we should be ready to go, but what’s this other recommended post on the sidebar, maybe I’ll just give that a quick… read.”
Man, we’re wordy.
Of course, this mindset isn’t particular to writers. Professionals in any career can be paralyzed by the need to read and learn until they feel like they’re ready.
But I think we’re especially susceptible to it, because reading is our primary means of training. We findblogs dedicated to helping freelancers, and don’t click away until we’ve read every post that they have to offer.
That we promptly forget.
WHAT YOU SHOULD REALLY WATCH OUT FOR
That’s right. Not taking action on the things you’ve learned isn’t really the worst danger of reading too much. What you really have to watch out for are the things you forget.
It happens all the time. You read something that makes you frown a little bit, stare off into space, and nod like Jason Lee in My Name is Earl. You think “That was a great tip! I’m going to use that!” Then you move on to the next nod-inducing post and forget the first one.
It’s only biology. You’re not giving the first post time to sink from short-term to long-term memory before you push it out with the next one.
But what does that do to you?
You’re spending time reading that you could be using to query clients and write killer content. If it takes you 15 minutes to read a post, an hour spent reading four posts could be costing you $100 or better.
And you’ve forgotten the first three, which means that you have absolutely nothing to show for the hour you just spent.
You tell yourself that you were “training” or “learning,” but what you were really doing is tossing an hour out the window.
Now, before you throw the BS flag, I’m as guilty as anyone. Probably more so. I’m pretty sure that I’ve read the entire Internet by now. When I wake up in the morning, my inbox is so clogged with blogs I’m subscribed to that reading them all at once would be an all-day task.
Wow, see… I just got distracted reading an article about freelancing intermediaries. It’s way too easy.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Well, the obvious answer certainly isn’t the best one: Stop reading.
That’s definitely out the window, because if we don’t read, we don’t improve.
The way I see it, there are two ways to deal with the problem. The first one is to set aside an hour each day for training. But, this comes with a caveat. You can’t read four posts and retain one and expect any kind of ROI for the hour you just spent.
Instead, take notes. If something is particularly salient, write it on a sticky note and stick it to your monitor so you can see it and remember it. Or frame it on your nightstand. Heck, tattoo it on your chest backwards so you can read it when you get out of the shower. However you do it, find a way to ensure you remember what you read, or it does you no good.
The second method of fixing this particular problem is to overwhelm yourself.
Maybe that doesn’t sound like the best idea. It feels like when your parents catch you smoking and make you smoke an entire pack until you’re throwing up. But, from personal experience (with the emails, not the smoking), it works.
I wake up and see that list in my inbox and all I can do is sigh. Reading through all of those posts seems like such a chore that I just don’t want to do it anymore. So, I scan the headlines, and if anything seems like it’ll be of immediate use, I read it. Otherwise, it gets archived.
I might get back to them someday, but that day hasn’t come yet.
There may be other ways to cure a problem with procrastireading. You might find the perfect balance between reading and working, or find a way to do both at the same time. If you do, let me know.
But until your R&D team comes up with the plan, close this tab, open up a new one, and use it to find a client. Your wallet will thank you.
How have you overcome your problems with getting started? Let us know in the comments.
And, as always, sharing earns you automatic Best Friend Status.