It is assumed, and likely true, that most writers begin as voracious readers. When I was little, used bookstores were ‘anything goes’ when shopping with my father. He also passed down most the the SciFi he read, from John DeChancie, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle (who is currently recovering quite well from his stroke) to authors whose names I don’t remember because I was a kid and I didn’t care. I just wanted a good story.
When I reached Junior High, a paperback novel was always between my assignment notebook and Trapper Keeper. I almost always finished my classwork early, then picked up my book, sat and quietly read.
This voracity continued through my thirties. Trying to get pregnant, I began devouring romance novels. Then, in my early forties (I turned 44 last Tuesday) I got serious about my writing career. I found some new authors and read them, not because it was pure pleasure, but because I admired them and wanted to learn. I read craft books such as Stephen King’s On Writing. I proofread for a small press for a year, reading many novels that were sent to me, not chosen by me.
I learned a lot.
And then I burned out.
Reading for pleasure had become a casualty of my career.
I didn’t think it was possible, but I realized that I’d started reading books…good stories by authors I loved…and not finished them. In 2014 I only finished reading two books, although I started at least a dozen.
I don’t keep Goodreads completely up to date, but I will not mark a book as ‘read’ unless I finished it. I give almost everything 4 stars, reserving 5 stars for the absolute gems or classics. My ‘am currently reading’ list is pretty long. Many (not all) of these books were ones I really was enjoying, but after spending the day on the computer, writing, revising, reading my friends’ flash fiction or blog entries, all I want to do is fall into bed, play my turns in Words With Friends (I’m USNessie… start a game with me!) and go to sleep. Reading for pleasure eludes me.
I am trying to change this. Last weekend I finished Revision 01 on the duology From Earth to Kingdom Come, and found some issues I had to untie, namely smoothing out the timeline that I’d tweaked. I decided to put aside writing and revising, and read as my ‘writing-related-work’ for a while. Fortunately, Tiffany Reisz’s The King was recently released. It took me about a week to finish, which is much longer than I used to take with a novel. In the beginning, I still suffered from the inclination to either do something ‘productive’ work-wise (like actual writing) or to just collapse in bed without reading. But when I reached a certain tipping point in the story, I couldn’t put it down and finished it that night.
Those two books I finished in 2014? Also Tiffany Reisz’s.
I’m not sure if the block is broken yet. My cup overfloweth with reading material. I don’t like the idea of turning reading into a chore where I make myself finish a certain number of pages each week. I’ll have to find something that works. I want to find the pleasure in reading again.