The international network has recently buzzed with the rise in TV binge-watching. You might know this phenomenon as the “marathon”, where viewers sit and watch a linked set of movies or a number of episodes from one series in a single sitting. And scientists are now telling us that the couple who binge-watches Game of Thrones together stays together. I have been guilty of this behaviour: it’s how I got through Black Books, The Good Life, most of Alias, and The IT Crowd.
At my most productive, I write in binges: a poem in an hour; a short story in a night; a three-week marathon from 20,000 words to the end of a first draft.
I also read in binges, comprising a book a night for a week or more at a time. Reading in binges creates certain problems at home, particularly when I am saturated in the Divergent trilogy or a work like Wolf Hall (which I still haven’t finished).
I like to read this way because it keeps the story consistent for me. I don’t have to re-read passages, to get my head back into ‘the zone’, to re-acquaint myself with the author’s world. I am immersed. There. Cloistered in the pages of a good book, away from real-life responsibilities, I am guaranteed of getting to the end of the book when I binge it. And, when I read a whole book in one sitting, I am speedy! Once I have read the first twenty to fifty pages, sometimes a hundred depending on the book, I hit my stride, and suddenly I’m not reading at all because the story is unfolding before me, perched next to the narrator like they’re my best buddy.
When I’m binge-writing, however, I don’t read anything longer than a short story or an isolated chapter at a time. I know myself: if I read something especially wonderful, I tend to try on this other style, second-guess my own voice, decide that what I have already written is rubbish. It can be crippling.
But when I’m not reading, I’m collecting. I am observing and living, taking book recommendations from friends and writing buddies, foraging new titles for my to-be-read list.
Right now, the TBR pile next to my desk ever builds and gathers dust, and I bark at the kids not to tread on my books because books deserve respect, even as they cascade over the living room as a new floor-covering…
I sense another binge coming on.