When Reading Is A Bad Idea


Photo by no_typographic_man (Creative Commons)


Put the book* down.

Yeah, you.

It’s a bad idea.

But I’m learning you say.

It’s time to apply what you’ve already learned.

But I’m a writer you say.

And Stephen King says, “if you want to be a writer, you gotta read A LOT.”

True—but you are missing the point.

Don’t read now.

You can’t feed yourself all the time. 

Have you really learned anything if you don’t use it?

Step away from the literary buffet and get to work.

Stop with the overflowing stack of books.

It’s time to create.

Go make something that has your own voice and thoughts. 

Give yourself permission to be a beginner.

Go ahead and experiment.

It is only when you put yourself out there—and actually risk something—you can achieve greatness.

So just put down the book.


*I’m specifically talking about when reading stops you from doing the work you KNOW you should be doing. For me personally, this often includes books about leadership, creativity, or writing. It is easy to replace actually DOING those things with just reading about them. Then at this point, the reading becomes resistance (see definition here in second sentence).

Has reading ever become resistance for you?


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  36 comments for “When Reading Is A Bad Idea

  1. Kim
    October 29, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Okay, okay. You do make sense. At first I thought you had lost your mind. *phew* So glad you haven’t.

    Personally, I’m still not ready to put down the books. I’ve been battling wicked writer’s block for weeks (and wrote a post about how I refuse to fight it) and have found reading starting to help. The more I read, the better my writing is lately and, to be honest, I’m happier reading right now.

    But, you’re definitely right: There does come a time where you need to put the books down and create. I’ll get there again someday. In the meantime, hand me a book. I have some reading to do. =)

    • October 29, 2013 at 3:12 pm

      I totally get that Kim. It’s important to know when you are just putting off the work or when you are filling yourself creatively. We all gotta eat, right? You are hungry and just entering the buffet line. (I think I want lunch now!)

      • Kim
        October 29, 2013 at 3:17 pm

        Haha. Love the buffet analogy!

  2. October 29, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Has reading ever become resistance for me? Yes Jim. Frequently. I’m starting to realize our household book purchasing ban was actually a good thing. I broke the “ban” a few weeks ago, and I’ve been given a few books in the last couple of months, and my writing has slowly come to a halt. Thanks for the post. I’ll go write now.

    • October 29, 2013 at 3:11 pm

      Love it! Write away Rick. You already know PLENTY 😉

  3. October 29, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    So glad you didn’t tell me to stop playing on Facebook and Twitter. THEN…we would have had issues.

    Good thoughts here Jim!

    • October 29, 2013 at 3:28 pm

      hahaha umm well I’d be a hypocrite…right?

    • October 29, 2013 at 4:53 pm

      agreed. i’m safe. phew!

  4. October 29, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Jim, you are so write =) I’m planning a similar post but you beat me to it. Reading can definitely become resistance, and become something that gets in the way of doing.

    Great post!

    • October 29, 2013 at 4:49 pm

      Thanks Ellory really appreciate it. I want to hear more of your thoughts on it–please let me know when that post goes up!

  5. October 29, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    I thought I was going to have to do a virtual protest … until I got to the end of your post (good thing I kept reading!) 😉

    But I agree – if you only ever dream, but never take any action to make the dreams a reality, then you have missed the point. That’s why I tend to stay away from the “how to” books (how to write, how to be an effective leader, etc.) because I learned a long time ago that 1) the people I admire often break all the “rules”, and 2) rules constrict us and keep us in a box. The best way is to find your passion and forge your own path!

    • October 29, 2013 at 7:35 pm

      Well Lynn, I’m sure glad you kept reading! I totally agree. It’s so wise to forge your own path!

  6. Dave Wonders
    October 29, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    I just finished book 87 of 2013… Sorry, but I’m kinda a rebel.

    • October 30, 2013 at 3:10 am

      Have you been able to accomplish your other goals too? Thanks!

      • Dave Wonders
        October 30, 2013 at 2:24 pm

        All of them that I started at the beginning of the year and a few others too… I dropped the blog, but that was more of an experiment than a goal I intended to continue (I had never tried it before and wanted to get a few thoughts out there).

        Here’s some thoughts on reading from Ryan Holiday that I just ran across yesterday:

        “It’s not just for fun. Human beings have been recording their knowledge in book form for more than 5,000 years. That means that whatever you’re working on right now, whatever problem you’re struggling with, is probably addressed in some book somewhere by someone a lot smarter than you. I say, save yourself the trouble of learning from trial and error–find that point. Benefit from that perspective.

        The purpose of reading is not just raw knowledge. It’s that it is part of the human experience. It helps you find meaning, understand yourself, and make your life better. There is very little else that you can say that about. Very little else like that under $20 too.”


  7. October 29, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    Reading….or anything really….stops so many of us from actually doing anything. Someday is today, as Jon Acuff said yesterday.

    • October 30, 2013 at 1:11 pm

      You know Jon really gets all his ideas from me, right? 🙂 haha

  8. Kelsey Anderson
    October 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    Us writers are told to read, read and read some more. But I sometimes find that difficult. Sometimes I get so into reading that I don’t get to my writing. Or I get too into writing that I forget about reading. It’s a never ending cycle!!!

    Anyways, great post Jim! 😛

    • October 29, 2013 at 9:13 pm

      i can relate to that, kels. i’m very much a victim of one extreme or the other.

  9. David Mike
    October 29, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    I work an early morning second job at Target. This allows me to have a book or a podcast in my ear for 3 hours 4 times a week. It is awesome because I can feed my head while doing work that doesn’t take much thought. I love Audible for this reason or for any other audio books, like “Goals” which I have listened to 3 times already! So don’t have to put the books down! Loop hole.

  10. Guest
    October 30, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Oh, stop! Reading is my safety zone, when I’m afraid to actually commit to the project and put something out there that might have a flaw, or GASP, an error. Obviously, more research would prevent that (because it prevents me from doing the work). Thanks, Jim. Now I need to read a fe more blog posts on how to stop hiding behind preparation!

  11. Sandy Pipkin
    October 30, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    Oh, stop! Reading is my safety zone, when I’m afraid to actually commit to the project and put something out there that might have a flaw, or GASP, an error. Obviously, more research would prevent that (because it prevents me from doing the work). Thanks, Jim. Now I need to read a few more blog posts on how to stop hiding behind preparation!

    • October 30, 2013 at 1:13 pm

      That’s exactly right–excessive research, excessive reading and other fun kinds of justified procrastination are the worst kinds because they “feel like work” but they aren’t. We can’t spend our whole lives in practice or pregame Sandy–the game has to start–and it counts doesn’t it!

  12. Juana_Storm
    October 30, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Well I worry about all the books I bought to improve on myself like ” The secret, Rich Dad Poor Dad, the 48 Laws of Power…. and the list goes on” I still believe I need more books. What stuck me when I read this article is ” when do I get to apply the principles from the books I have already read?” If I am still reading and not practising.

    • October 30, 2013 at 6:24 pm

      Juana, thanks for sharing that. I like to read the reviews/summaries of some of those books instead of the whole book(s) at the same time, which can overload your brain and tire you out. Then you can refocus quickly and work on what you KNOW you need to work on. Reading is important, but it’s not more important than actually doing the work. Thanks again Juana!

      • Juana_Storm
        October 30, 2013 at 7:50 pm

        Thank you!

        • October 30, 2013 at 7:52 pm

          You bet! Here is a site with FANTASTIC reviews I found. hope you enjoy it Juana. sivers.org/book

          • Juana_Storm
            October 30, 2013 at 8:01 pm

            Thanks a lot Jim just what I need more books! Lol!


  13. October 31, 2013 at 2:49 am

    A great reminder, Jim. I am guilty as charged. 🙂

    • October 31, 2013 at 1:16 pm

      We all are!! 😉 haha

  14. October 31, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    Read, work, repeat.

    • November 1, 2013 at 11:27 am

      True, but many of us don’t know what that looks like. We’ve been consumers for too long and not producers.

    • November 3, 2013 at 4:50 am


  15. Pablo Ellsworth
    November 1, 2013 at 10:17 am

    I can’t believe how many books I have read on following my dream, and I still feel like I am at the beginning……why? Because of what you mentioned in this post. Just recently I started taking small steps…..knowledge is awesome. Knowledge not applied is like a buffet of food where the flies start to gather.

    • November 1, 2013 at 11:28 am

      Exactly. You got it Pablo!! And I don’t REMOTELY want my blog here to be part of this resistance. Let’s talk about action. Let’s talk about steps we can take to NOT get in this rut–and most importantly–let’s do the work we need to do!

      • Pablo Ellsworth
        November 1, 2013 at 11:31 am

        Your blog is awesome Jim….always calling to action. 🙂

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