A writer in read-mode, or: avoiding the dissecting-anger.

writing in the nude

The difference between reading and writing

You may think it’s a simple distinction. With the one you sit down with a book and read the pages. With the other you sit down at the computer, with your notepad, your clay tablets or whatever tickles your fancy and you start/continue composing a story.

For some this might be true. It’s not always like that for me. After I had started writing more seriously, I found that I couldn’t read for fun any more. If you are an avid reader, you know that sucks all kinds of terrible.

The love of writing should not kill the love of reading

Reading a book at the beach

So, what did I find to happen? I was looking over the text of the books that I was reading. Trying to find the bits I loved, the bits I wanted to write myself. I was analysing sentence and word use, patterns, ideas, words. And at the end of the book I had no idea what the book was actually about.

Talk about a bummer, right? A few times I would start the book again, to actually read it, but that usually didn’t work. I had seen the words before. Deconstructed the sentences before. So the book was put to the side and I would grab another one.

This shit has got to change!

That was me to me at one point. I had gone through a few books this way, found things I really liked and might actually use, only to find that I would never use them because a) there was already someone using them and b) it wasn’t my writing style.

That was quite a revelation to myself. Here I was, trying to learn from other writers, and the only thing I had learnt in a few months was that it was all in vain. That made it clear that this shit had to change.

Reading

I have to admit that it took a while before I was able to sit down with a book and just read it for fun.

It’s creepy how such a dissecting habit can creep into your way of doing things, but I managed to banish it. I can now sit down and enjoy a book again, without looking at the structure, the elements that build the story. Occasionally something in a story strikes me, and then I consciously decide to look at that part but nothing else. After all, at times you learn something in the oddest places.

If you like to read, then I am grabbing the opportunity to point you to the books of the gentlemen who run this website with me, Will and Robert. And if this is not enough, there’s a whole library of naturist books waiting for you on another site I maintain. You can find that by following this link.

Wishing you a lot of pleasant hours of relaxed reading,

Paul

5 thoughts on “A writer in read-mode, or: avoiding the dissecting-anger.”

  1. I know what you mean, Paul – yes, it is very frustrating sometimes to have to work so hard to just let go and read for fun! I’m glad you’ve been making progress, 😉

  2. This problem arises for two other types of reader: the reviewer and the copy editor / proof reader. I don’t know how the latter manage it, but good reviewers seem to be able to read simultaneously for enjoyment and analysis. If a book is bad, it can almost be a relief to resort to spotting faults, to think about something other than woeful plot or characterisation! If a book is good, it is easy to become absorbed, to remain blissfully unaware of how the quality has been achieved?

    I suppose, for many authors, there is a balance to be struck in aiming for top-quality use of language, and producing a really good STORY. The best manage both, apparently without effort. Perhaps, Paul, if you work hard enough at analysis and critical appraisal, it can become second nature, something which can happen in the background. Then, instead of worrying all the time about staying upright on the metaphorical bicycle, you can enjoy the journey and the views without distraction?

    1. Hello Tim,

      I’m glad I have managed to get back into reading for pleasure again. It was a bit of a struggle for some time. I think I could find my way back to it because I love reading.

  3. In a report in Sunday’s _Observer_, a report on the re-opening of Oxford’s Story Museum after refurbishment, co-directors Kim Pickin and Caroline Jones deplore some current teaching practices. “When you think about what teachers face on a day-to-day basis, the thing that is most easily engineered out of the classroom experience is any notion of imagination or creativity. How do you squeeze the joy out of a book? You ignore the story and concentrate on the phonics and mechanics of it.” Paul is not alone!

    See https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/mar/14/oxford-story-museum-childrens-book-lyra-alethiometer

    1. That is a precious link, Tim. I loved how the article starts with the alethiometer. I’m currently reading the Dark Materials trilogy!

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