Monday, June 7, 2010

The Art of Reading - Through a Writer's Eyes

I've always been a fairly voracious reader. I devour books. When I was little, I couldn't go to sleep unless I had been read to. As I grew older, I had to read at least one chapter, and then two, and then three--until eventually, it was the entire book that needed to be finished before going to bed (and trust me, this made for some very exhausting days at school).

That's the thing about reading - the way that almost any book, well written, and thoughtfully crafted, can completely transport you to another world. You don't want to put it down. You can utterly submerse yourself into the storyline and become a part of it.

The sad thing is when I'm writing, I'm not quite able to enjoy reading in the same way. It's like my brain fully rewires itself into "analyze mode" and all I can see is the technicality of the writing. I'm constantly picking apart each element of the novel, frequently going back and re-reading certain parts to see if they match up--it almost becomes very tedious, but I can't help it. While I still lose myself in the story, the expression "reading for fun" now has a different meaning for me.

Despite this, while I'm picking apart all these novels - I know it's because I'm learning. This never happened before when I was just writing for myself. Now that I'm positive I would like to someday be published, these are the sorts of things I am suddenly paying attention to. I'm learning not only about writing, but also about technique and myself--what works, what doesn't, what I enjoy, what I don't, how the story should flow, etc. When you really look at it, the book you're holding in your hands is something someone, somewhere thought was good enough to be printed - we can all learn from that.

Don't get me wrong - I can never stop loving reading - it's almost like breathing to me, it's just a different experience when I'm writing at the same time :).

Does this ever happen to you? Have you found that reading has changed for you since you became serious about writing?


Davin Malasarn said...

Reading did change for me when I started writing. Suddenly, I was always critical of nearly every other work. It took me a long time to appreciate the fact that most traditionally published books have something of value in them--that I could learn something from all of them. Thankfully, though, nowadays I can turn that critic's eye off. After writing for a few years, I could suddenly enjoy books again, sometimes even my own, and that has been wonderful.

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

First of all--New Follower! *waves*

Hope you don't mind me cyberstalking you--I love connecting with other writers online. And I really enjoyed this post. I know exactly what you mean. Especially when I'm in revision mode, I have a really hard time not ripping apart the books I'm reading. If only I could see my own draft with such a sharp critical eye, maybe I wouldn't have gotten such a long revision letter from my agent. *sighs*

Anyway, nice to meet you! I do a lot of blog hopping at work, so I don't always comment on posts I read. But I'm an excellent lurker, so if you don't see me that doesn't mean I'm not reading. Look forward to getting to know you better!

Happy Monday!

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Hi, new follower. Thanks for stopping by my blog and following. I love finding new writer friends to share the journey with.
Great post. I've loved books my entire life too. I had the same bedtime reading routine like you. :)
I do find myself analysing books when I read. I stopped when I left university, but since writing seriously I have started to look for more specific things.
I can loose myself in a book if I'm really enjoying it though. I think, sometimes, the writer in me takes over. lol.

WritingNut said...

Davin - you're so lucky that you've been able to turn off the critic's eye. I still haven't been able to! I'm glad to know that it CAN be done though, and one day I'll be able to enjoy books the way I used to.

Shannon - It's so nice to meet you too! Thanks for the follow. And lurk away, I'm glad you enjoyed the post! :)

WritingNut said...

Lindsay - thanks for sharing that. These comments make me feel so much better knowing I'm not alone. Meeting new and such wonderful people is a huge highlight of blogging and I am loving it :).

Renae said...

Hi, just started following. Great post. I find it hard to switch gears when writing as well. Don't worry you're not alone.

WritingNut said...

Hi Renae - thanks so much for following and your kind words :)

Anonymous said...

Reading definitely changed for me when I decided to become a writer. I analyze everything just like you do, and sometimes that makes me forget for a moment what I've just read. It's the same for movies and TV shows.

Lola Sharp said...

Oh, just wait until your in heavy revision mode...or when you are doing a lot of critiques for your CP's. At that point I'm in such editing mode, I literally want to pick up a red pen and start marking the book up!

The good news is, you learn a lot about craft by reading this way.

And you know you're reading a truly special book when you hardly notice a single adverb or any of the mechanics, and you are actually absorbed into the story.

It's pretty rare for me these days.

WritingNut said...

Amanda - you're right -- even with movies I'm always analyzing too. I'm constantly thinking "they could have done that this way and made it better, or this doesn't make sense", etc. It's hard to turn off!

Lola - It sounds like... fun... *shifty eyes* I'm kidding, of course :) I hope it will be one day soon though. It would be so nice to enjoy a book the way I used to.