Fear in Writing: My Reading Habit

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Friday, March 19, 2010

My Reading Habit

When does reading become a race?  When does it become work?

Well, when you're a writer.

Recently, I have found myself not so excited about sitting down with a good book.  It is not a statement on the quality of the read, but rather a statement on my approach.

Sites like Shelfari and Goodreads encourage full bookshelves and page input, reviews and ratings.  In order to participate, I have to read as many books as possible, right?  I have to type in every title I have ever read and read more and more and more to fill my shelf and be friended and make in impact...right?

Additionally, I am a writer.  When I read I notice passages I want to emulate and, more often, passages I want to strike out, vomit upon, and send back to the writer with big, fat, red-ink marks.  So reading has taken on a new meaning--that of the case study.

I love reading.  I dream in complete books.  I fold myself into the stories I read and dive into the lives of characters.  But, sometimes it just seems too fake.  Sometimes I need to step back and see why I am really doing it, why I am really turning pages.  Am I learning?  Researching?  Dreaming?  Avoiding?  Racing?

Sharing the books you love via Goodreads and Shelfari is wonderful.  I have had some great discussions and discovered new books on these sites.  But why am I really updating my reading habits?  Is it for posterity?  Is it for my own personal achievement?

It doesn't hurt to step back and look. 

And then get back to reading.

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  1. I have a very hard time reading when I'm in writing mode! I normally wolf down mysteries, but since that is waht I write, I steer clear of them when I tackle my WIP.

    And it's always a challenge to decide where to spend the increasingly little time I have available to pursue activities... read or write... toss a coin!


  2. I have found that since I've been writing, my criteria for what to read has become more selective. My time is more precious now and I will only take on books I'm really drawn to...which is mostly mystery/suspense/thriller. There was a time when I would read a book just to say I've read it, but that time has passed.

  3. I haven't had the time to really explore Goodreads like I need to! But I do keep a list of things I've read and enjoyed...because my memory is so bad and people ask me for book recommendations and I can't remember!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  4. Yeah, sometimes it seems like a popularity contest - who can read the most?!

    I'm in reading limbo right now. The last few new books I've read have been disappointing, so I'm reluctant to try anything new.

  5. I know what you mean. My reading has changed a lot since I've been writing. Less patience and more critical evaluation. Still, I try not to race through the good books!

  6. Michele -- Dearest, could you put just a little more STRESS in your life? We talked about that didn't we, and this is one of those little things.

  7. I haven't joined sites like those - in the fear of causing myself more stress :) I just don't have time to add anything else to my schedule.

  8. I haven't updated the sites I've joined as much as I suppose I should. I usually only update when I've finished a book and have a review I want to share.

  9. I try not to feel pressured in my reading. Sucks the joy out of the experience.

  10. I haven't joined sites like these simply because I enjoy reading and I want it to be a pleasure, not a task. Selfishly, between trying to finish my novel and writing games and my blog and then feeding and watering my kids, I have enough on my plate right now.

    Oh, and I need to get out to the garden before it's completely taken over by weeds. I could say I'm going for a 'natural, wild' look. Hmmmm.

  11. Great post. I'm a LibraryThing addict and sometimes I wonder what the point of it all is. :-)

  12. I panic when I'm out of book! I usually have three or four books going or awaiting. I don't care to do it competitively though. I read what I like and to suit my needs - sometimes it is a grand book and sometimes a formulaic speedy trip. Depends on how much I'm putting out at work. I know quite a few writers who won't read contemporaries -they don't want to feel bad, compare or be asked to comment. Too bad for them I say.

  13. I haven't really been on those sites either.I have a goodreads, twitter, facebook, myspace, shelfari accounts but I'm rarely there...

    Recently my husband saw my book mentioned on authonomy and he asked if I was belonging to that site...I said I was but I hadn't been there since 2008.

    I guess I think they are helpful but not if my writing suffers.


  14. Jill- Interesting idea: to read outside your genre while writing. Didn't you blog here abou "knowing your genre?" Just saying. :) But it IS an interesting idea. I haven't read non-mystery in awhile. I think I'm due.

    DL- Selective is a good way to be. I need to be more selective. Instead I think my reading mind has become broadened. I seem to want to snatch everything up and try EVERYTHING!

    Elizabeth- Keeping records has its benefits. I'm sure you get tons of requests for recommendations.

    Alan- Unfortunately, the good ones are the ones I DO race through! I can't put those down.

    Ann- I know, I know. You made me smile here. You are so right! But I'm blogging about it, aren't I? That is a stress-reliever.

    Jemi- I am a member of too many sites. I need to pare down. (Pear? Pair?)

    Mason- It's not a bad idea to have a plan--only update when...Then you're not on all the time!

    Alex- I'M the one putting the pressure on! But you are right. I bet there is a scifi creation that sucks out joy, too. :P

    Elspeth- Natural and wild. Not two words I would have used to describe you! But gardening and reading are much better hobbies than shelfari-ing and goodread-ing. :)

    Marie- Welcome! I have my apathetic days, too. Today, obviously, is one of them. And yet, I will go back to the site sometime this weekend...Ahhh, the joys of addiction...

    Jan- It didn't start off as a competition. And I like to think I am helping others by putting my current, future, and past reads on my shelves. You know, selling books and all that. I think there's something altruistic there. But I have to protect my psyche, too!

    Ann Elle- Definitely in moderation. I haven't been to authonomy...Great. Another one. Thanks, Ann Elle. Really. :P

  15. I truly understand what you are talking about. You just have to learn how to say NO to books :) I mean not all books, but to those which initially do not amaze or attract you. You don't really have to read all the books you have, buy, receive, get ... because let's face it - 80% of all books are just crap :)

    When it comes to me, I have one very unusual problem - I can't read books normally anymore. As a translator I've learned to dissect each and every sentence, each and every word in every book I read, and thus overfocused linguistically I just can't follow the plot anymore. It just takes the joy of reading away from me.
    That's the downside of my profession :(

  16. I don't belong to any of those reading sites nor have I ever been to them. I just don't have the time. (blogging takes up too much time as it is!)
    Your post intrigues me. (I love your honesty)

    I DO read a lot, even when I'm writing. My TBR stack by my bed is tall, which is exactly how I like it. (since several wont end up making the cut, due to its crappyness)
    I'm pretty selective about who (author) I read, and from whom I take recommendations.
    I do start books that I feel hopeful about, get in about 20 pages and throw it in the giveaway pile. Bad writing is bad writing.
    I also make a point to read books from every genre, both current and the classics. I truly take pleasure in reading a good book. Reading an excellent book makes my head explode with 'damn, I wish i wrote that', and the sheer enjoyment their mastery of the craft and story brings.

    But, yes, I do tend to pick apart, analyze and consider every decision the writer made. But I learn from their mistakes, and their successes.

    Have a HAPPY Weekend!

  17. I first started writing my own screenplays because I couldn't stand what was on TV. I feel that way with many books--I get bored and would prefer to be working on my own story. I've become very selective and only read things that engage me from the start. That way it remains my escapism. I occasionally toss in something that I think I could learn something from (a differernt genre, an award winner, a classic etc), but I'm trying hard not to turn what I love into work.

  18. Dez- I sort of get it, but not to the extent you deal with it! It really is a problem, isn't it? And you're right--I don't have to read everything sent to me! An ARC that came as part of a contest (a very LARGE ARC, I might add) was just not doing it for me...and I actually stopped reading it. I was very proud! You're advice is good.

    Lola- You are so right and I should have touched on your point in my posts--one can learn just as much from bad writing, as from good. Though, to Dezmond's point, that doesn't necessarily mean it's worth our time!

    Lorel- THAT is a good idea. I should write instead of read! Now, why didn't I think of that. I'm not being sarcastic here...It is really so simple and yet I hadn't considered the substitution.