Writing and Reading

books and pen graphicWhen you’re a professional writer, you read a lot. You have to. You read for research. You read to keep up with your genre or subject. Eventually, you read because you’re writing blurbs and judging awards an/or writing reviews. You read for inspiration. You read because an editor has told you they want more books “like this.”

I know, I know….awwwww…the poor, poor little writer. Forced to spend a large portion of every day with a book.

But when reading is so much a part of your job, the experience of reading changes. Reading critically becomes a reflex. You cannot get away from it. You diessect what’s in front of you whether you want to or not. You check it for flow, style, pace, plot, depth of character. Some part of your brain is constantly “on,” analyzing how this other writer did their job and trying to decide if you could do it better.

This means I have in some ways lost a big part of my life; reading for fun. Reading has been my major entertainment throughout much of my life. When your entertainment becomes your work, you do lose something.

Fortunately, you gain something too.

Because now, when I find a book I like, I really like it. It is a rare and precious thing. An author who can shut off my inner-professional and just sweep me under in story is a complete delight. And when I do pick up a book, especially a big, thick book that has nothing to do with anything I’m writing or any other aspect of my job, there’s that glorious under-the-covers-after-lights-out feeling to it. I’m doing this because I WANT to and NOBODY can stop me!

I’m doing this now, actually. I’m reading a book called HUNGER’S BRIDES by Paul Anderson (no relation to the great SF writer Poul Anderson). This book is HUGE, 1300 pages worth of huge, and details the life of a Mexican woman in the Baroque period who was a poet, scholar, feminist and nun. I picked it up because as an object, it was beautiful; a huge, lush book, and because I was just plain curious. It’s become a complete indulgence. The language is gorgeous, the story is slow. Hey, it’s 1300 pages, it’s going to be slow. So far, however, the characters are wonderfully drawn and the story, slow as it is, is gripping and is showing me a whole new world. The whole thing has a magnificent bitter-sweet chocolate sort of feel to it. It is a luxury, a pure indulgence.

And NOBODY can stop me!

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Writing and Reading — 6 Comments

  1. It’s so true. I’ve become so hyper-critical of everything I read that if a book doesn’t absolutely enthrall me within the first 20 pages or so, I drop it, and when I find something I really like, I tirelessly flog it to everyone within hearing range!

  2. My sister says that one reason she writes poetry instead of fiction is so she can still enjoy reading fiction! BTW, since I’m talking about my sister the poet, her name is Katrinka Moore and her new book of poems is called Thief.

  3. But when reading is so much a part of your job, the experience of reading changes. Reading critically becomes a reflex. You cannot get away from it. You diessect what’s in front of you whether you want to or not.

    Definitely. I’ve been a compulsive editor for years. It’s like perfect pitch; I can’t turn it off, although sometimes I can adjust the intensity. And yes, an excellent author can help me make that happen.

    I’m judging for an award now, though, and have been working on my assigned books for a couple of months. There were times when I would’ve loved to have been just reading for fun. It would’ve given me the freedom to bail out on the trainwrecks, and to kick back and just enjoy the gems. People who haven’t tried reading for work just don’t get that it’s work, and it’s not always much fun.

    Angie

  4. Actually, Bob, since it starts out with a description of the Plague hitting Mexico City, rather a lot of them die at the beginning.

    I’m on about pg. 101 now (I was out of town and this is not a book you can carry on the plane) and he’s just pulled a twist with the narration that has left me breathless. Oh, this guy is GOOD. He’s really, REALLY good.