There are many different ways to read, and many different ways of reading that generate new writing. (For example, reading with a pencil.) One of my favorite ways is to have 3 or 4 books going at the same time and let them talk to each other.
Here’s Octavia Butler:
I generally have four or five books open around the house—I live alone; I can do this—and they are not books on the same subject. They don’t relate to each other in any particular way, and the ideas they present bounce off one another. And I like this effect. I also listen to audio-books, and I’ll go out for my morning walk with tapes from two very different audio-books, and let those ideas bounce off each other, simmer, reproduce in some odd way, so that I come up with ideas that I might not have come up with if I had simply stuck to one book until I was done with it and then gone and picked up another.
Here’s Richard Powers:
I like to keep one work of fiction and one of nonfiction going at once, and I’ll use them to triangulate against each other to conjure up some third space.
Like walking through the city all day, you’re bombing your brain with lots of different inputs, recognizing patters, and pulling a thread of meaning out of it all.
My kids do this naturally, by the way. They’re very promiscuous with their books, flitting from one to the next and sometimes back again. (I heard from one reader who said she was admonished in elementary school for reading this way. Her teacher told her parents she should have no more than two…)
This method is easily transferred to listening, watching, etc.
More: “Storing up images”