Saturday, December 5, 2009

Reading: A Lost Art of the Writer

Well, today I worked on my MS. I fiddled with a scene, printed out the rest of the WIP, internalized some ideas (not all great--worry abounds), and then I allowed myself READING TIME. No, not reading contest entries. Not reading blogs (tho' I love them). Not reading forums and loops to stay in the know. Not reading craft books (tho' that's on my to-do list). Nope. I attempted reading for pleasure.

Remember that concept, my writing friends? Reading for pleasure. Reading for the sheer joy of being immersed in a book and loving the characters and just flipping the pages till you reached "the end?" Ah, that's why I became a writer. I love to read.

I used to be a proverbial book slut. There's no other way of putting it. I read any and all genres, non-fiction and fiction. I read classics by Wilkie Collins and Willa Cather and Bronte. I read pulp fiction. I read Fantasy. I read Romances. I read self-help books. I read Inspirational books. I read WESTERNS (yes I did). I read children's books. I read Young Adult books. I read cheap thrillers. I read Mysteries.

I read a lot.

Now I write. And there's barely time to read a published book unless it's a new author I want to support or a book about writing. I do read at night with my reading glasses perched on my face and my brain weary. I fall asleep with the glasses on my nose and the book on the floor (will a KINDLE survive my abuse? Doubtful).

I read books in my genre and pick them apart. When did she hook me? Or how did he make me turn the pages? How long are the scenes? Where are the PPPs? And on and on.

But today I tried to "read for pleasure." It was hard at first. Really hard. I kept counting pages and scene lengths (uh, I am thinking of going to Single Title length and this book's a ST, RS). I kept looking and marveling at how the authors had spun the tale so beautifully (and comparing it to my own crap writing -- still having a bit of a PPP here). And I had the most difficult time just getting into the story.

But it happened. Slowly. I did just start flipping the pages and enjoying the sheer joy of being transported into another world and not worrying about the technique and the pacing and the plot. I just read.

Remember that? Reading for sheer joy? When's the last time you read for pleasure?


Callie James said...

Oh this is a constant stress for me. I love books. I miss books. Between the day job, writing, and volunteer work, I rarely have time to read. I have stacks waiting. I try to get books read while at lunch or waiting at the doctor's office. I miss being able to sit and read a book in a weekend. Maybe two. For now, those days are over.

Hopefully some day I won't have this day job (yeah, right) and I'll have more time to write AND read. Maybe.

Christine said...

Callie, I know. That's the rub of becoming a writer. And I don't work outside the home and I still don't have much time to read. I'm so obsessed with the writing. I think our keynote speaker at the SM Luncheon hit a note for me: she said she started reading again for pleasure. Not to learn. But just to read. And she was happy.

Reading makes me happy. It's why I want to be a writer. I want to make other people happy, too.

I hope you find time to read soon!

Gwen Hernandez said...

Good post, Christine. It's easy to give up the things we enjoy when we're writing all the time. The last few days have been like that, especially while taking this online class.

Mostly, though, I still read like crazy (read "First You Run" by Roxanne St. Claire a few days ago), but I only start a book if I have time to finish it that day. I either read early in the day when I know I will have time to write later, or I read in the afternoon/evening after meeting my writing goals.

I have one or two non-fiction books going at all times, and I fill in the fiction in spurts, usually several books a week. Some days I just need to turn the brain off.

I usually get sucked into the book, but occasionally I notice what I do or don't like. Mostly a book is like a movie running in my head, so I only spot something if it pulls me out of the story. =)

MaryC said...

Interesting blog, Christine. The inability to read for pleasure was ultimately what sucked the fun out of writing for me a number of years ago. I've always been a passionate reader - the kind who read a bread wrapper rather than sit at the table with nothing. But all the self-imposed pressure to write and study and analyze completely zapped the fun of reading for me.

I ultimately decided it wasn't a sacrifice I was willing to make. I'll always be a reader before I'm a writer. These days I make sure to write something every day - I'm on that 100 words a day loop - but writing no longer consumes my life. I no longer write to get published but because I have a story I want to explore. If publication follows - great - but at least I still have my books to read.

That's probably way more than you wanted to hear, but as you can tell - it was a big deal for me. Obviously others feel differently.

Nicki Salcedo said...

Reading is an art. Sometimes I miss it so much. But now I savor it. I agree with Callie. Travel with a book and steal a moment at the doctor's office to escape! Thanks for the great post, Christine.

Ellen B said...

I don't often say this, but I'm thankful for the c. 50-60 minute bus journey (each way) between my flat and my job. Without it, I would find it quite hard to have reading time. I also read during my lunch hour, but I am hoping to start using that time for writing again.

Also, not everyone can read in a moving vehicle. I learned early :) Maybe I knew it would come in useful.

Christine said...

Gwen: I love your philosophy to start a book with the goal of finishing it the day you start! Wow. I used to read like that all the time. I am incorporating reading for sheer joy during the holiday season.

Christine said...

MaryC, I completely understand why you scaled back on the writing. So many other things get lost by the wayside. Fun things, too. I liked what you said about writing because it is a story you want to explore. I know that's where I am with this fourth WIP. It's taking me places I hadn't expected to go. And at first I wondered why I was bothering to follow the characters because I was unsure of the publication possibilities. Then I decided the heck with it. It's my story and I have to write it.

Christine said...

Nicki: I used to carry a book with me all the time. Now I bring my laptop and write when I am waiting for appts. But I think I will start reading again. I miss it! And reading is an art. You have to read more than 2 pages before falling asleep to get "into the story."

Christine said...

Ellen: reading to and from work is a great idea. As they say in SPAMALOT: Always look at the bright side of life...

I can read in a moving vehicle. I use long drives to catch up on my magazine reading. I have stacks of them. Like MaryC, I cannot sit down to eat without something to read. Usually it's the paper--

One of my CPs said that she follows a rule of percentages for writing and reading. Like 60% writing, 20% reading, 20% craft lessons. Might have to incorporate that one as well.

Martha W. said...

Ya know, this is the one thing that I never gave up. I love reading. I don't think I could survive without it.

That said, half of my reading is now e-books. The other half are those authors that no matter what they write, I buy them in hard copy.

*grin* glad you came back to the pleasure side of our industry!

Christine said...

Hey Martha--do you use a Kindle for your E-books? Are you targeting e-publishers? I've pretty much decided that the third MS that finaled in the MAGGIES has only a few options publication wise if BLAZE or Silhouette Desire doesn't pounce on it. Once I wrestle the fourth WIP into shape (and I'm planning on making it ST although it is entered as a category series romance in the GH), I am looking at all my future projects with a more critical eye for length or ability to make into a longer book. The third just won't go bigger. Anyhow, I am considering e-books for my reading pleasure, too.

MaryC said...

Many years ago at an RWA meeting in NYC, I heard historical writer Roberta Gellis sum it up - she said she has a daily quota of words she needs - some her own, some from others - in order to be a happy person. Although I believe she said it more like in order not to be cranky. ;)

MaryC said...

I saw a quote yesterday on Twitter that you reminded me of -

Keep in mind that the person to write for is yourself. Tell the story that you most desperately want to read. SUSAN ISAACS

Christine said...

MaryC-thanks for the quote. I'm going to put into a document and hang it on my door for inspiration. I am writing the book I have to write for the peeps in my head. I feel I've got to go where they lead me. Chasing trends and marketing waves isn't going to get me any closer to the elusive goal of attaining publication. Solving my story riddles will at least give me pleasure, a little pain, and garner me a ton of awesome writing comrades along the way. If that is all I get, and maybe a thank you C for your help on the inside of a book cover from a friend, well, then I have lived my life to the best of my abilities.

Ellen B said...

I do love how you call your characters your 'peeps', Christine - it gives me a mental picture of all these tiny little people living independent lives and it sounds very affectionate and sweet!

MaryC, I've been hearing variations of that quote for years, thank you for posting it with an actual attribution! That's going on a post-it on the front of my next notebook.

Zoe said...

I feel quite lucky in that I've managed to keep reading for pleasure, albeit slowly. I find the two places I read are in bed and in the bath (I can't imagine a Kindel would survive me either ... or I'd survive it).

I do get what you mean about disecting books though, I'm learning proofreading and copyediting skills at the moment and I find that these creep in to my everyday reading, it can be rather frustrating.

Christine said...

Hi Zoe, welcome to my Veranda! I am glad you popped in. I totally get what you mean about really working hard NOT to dissect books. It's hard to turn that editor within off.

Come back to visit!