Do you ever feel that you can't call a particular activity “working” if it's something you love doing? I certainly think that way most of the time. I have to tell myself not to feel guilty about spending time reading regularly, because it's too much fun for me to believe that it's good for my writing.
But it's not just good for writing, it's necessary. Several things are vital to writing growth. Honest critiques help point writers in a positive direction. Learning the disciplines of dedication and self-motivation keep writers from stagnating. But critiques and discipline on their own don't quite stabilize a writer's progression. Reading is the essential third leg.
When I first started writing I didn't appreciate how much I needed to read, particularly in my genre. Then two years ago at The Virginia Festival of the Book, a panelist made a comment about the necessity of reading that finally clicked. A couple months later at a book signing Melissa Marr reiterated the point, telling those of us listening to read books from every section of the library—books on pottery and poetry, love and lore, architecture and arthropods.
Since then the library has been my best friend. Until two years ago I had purchased nearly all of the books I read, meaning if I didn't want to break the bank, I couldn't read nearly enough. Now library books are the majority of what I read (though not all—the new kindle has quite a few books already). Just today I picked up How to Be Popular by Meg Cabot and How Not to Be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler. (When I saw them both I couldn't resist.)
The best part about reading—aside from getting to do something that is awesome fun—is seeing how much it improves my writing. I can see how much more progress I've made in the past two years than in the years before that. Couldn't ask for more.
And now, a book is calling. Time to go snuggle up and enjoy it.