"Don't shit where you eat" has always sounded like sensible and pertinent advice to me. So as a writer, I try to keep my zones of reading for pleasure and work completely separate.
Prosaic work-related matters first; I have a splendiferous writing studio, with an adjoining office leading out on to a balcony. Mostly I'm reading research materials at my big work desk in the studio, which absorbs piles of my rubbish, and has white boarded walls close to hand, for all my scribbling's and my copious Post-it notes.
Across the room, in a bay window, sits a set of Technics turntables. I listen to a lot of music when I write, but I can't do it through my computer or even on CD. I have to have the ritual of leaving my desk for a break and the tactile experience of slapping down some vinyl. When it all this gets too much, I take my reading onto the balcony, though I often find myself distracted, looking down on the street, checking out the passing neighbors and their dogs.
Reading for pleasure takes place in a different theatre. I have a large deck to the rear of my house, and it has an amazing, comfortable outdoor settee, the purchase of which has enhanced my life considerably. I gratefully fall back onto it during those drowsy, muggy Chicago summer afternoons or evenings, and just get into the sheer tripiness of reading, the awe and wonder of it.
When you are reading for research and inspiration, you voraciously scan every word, line and sentence. Reading for pleasure is different; you use another part of the brain, and you just let it wash over you and let your psyche unravel as it interfaces with the book.
And while you do sometimes have to knuckle down and be all grown-up, this is where you find the real magic as a writer: just by forgetting that's what you are, and simply through becoming a reader again.
Irvine Welsh's new book Skagboys (WW Norton, $26.95), the prequel to Trainspotting, is out now