I could have titled this post “How Writing Has Changed My Reading Habits, Part 3” because it’s really a continuation of how my growth as a writer has changed the way I read. Part 1 focused on how querying made me switch from reading mainly adult books to middle grade and young adult. (I sort of cringe now when I realize how long I waited to start reading in the category I was writing, but hey, I was a new writer then.) Part 2 was just last summer, when I shared how sometimes my reading is not as much just for fun as for market research or to support authors I know. (Although I enjoy it then, too.)
Well, now I have another topic that’s been brewing for a while. It has to do with how I read these days. I used to be able to pick up a book and immediately get lost in the story. I didn’t notice if the author loaded the opening chapter with backstory or “as you know, Bob” dialogue. I happily breezed through chapters of flowery description and passive voice. I didn’t mind if every character in the book paired off and the ending was tied up in an unbelievable happily-ever-after bow.
Because I didn’t know any better. I was just a reader. But after several years dedicated to improving my craft, it’s impossible for me to turn off that inner writer when I’m reading, and it’s had a rather sad side effect.
You see, I have some favorite authors I’ve been reading for more than twenty years, since I was in my early teens. Their books take up multiple shelves on my book case. Whenever a new book comes out, I add it to my collection. Except … after reading one of those author’s latest books, I found myself frustrated and tempted to stop reading halfway through. I decided I’m not going to pick up her next book, and now I’m a bit nervous about re-reading any of the thirty other books of hers I have on my shelves downstairs. Will I decide I don’t love those anymore? Or will the nostalgia of reading them under my desk during eighth grade Earth Science pull me through?
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first of those old favorites I’ve given up on. I’m pretty sure some of them are being published on the strength of their name and twenty (or thirty) years of publishing history. Why fix what’s already selling? In some ways, I wish I could turn off the writer part of my brain so I could enjoy them the way I used to. And I’m glad not every reader thinks like a writer. Because one of those authors I gave up on? I heard her speak once and she inspired me, so even though I can no longer get lost in her books, I will always be grateful for her inspiring me to write.
Now, I should point out that this writer disdain (gosh, that makes me sound like such a snob!) definitely doesn’t include all of my old favorites. Many of them are totally writers whose brains I want to pick and ask, how do you do that so well? It’s just that I’m no longer able to read anything with the same disinterested reader brain I used to have.
Have you had this experience with authors you used to love and aren’t able to read the same way anymore?