I’m not the reader I used to be. Ever since I stopped being a student, I struggled with reading as many books as I did in my youth. Partially it was because of my limited time: I didn’t have gaps between lectures or workshops to fill with reading. Being employed full time meant 9 hours a day at my workplace. After that, I had to take care of my food and house chores. It was also the fear of losing sleep over a book – something I confessed to two years ago, and something I couldn’t afford being an employee. But lately, I realized the problem is more complex than just less time to read.
The older we are, the more picky readers we become
I remember one of my friends, a real music connoisseur, saying once, “they don’t make good music anymore”. I was somewhat inclined to agree, but then I realized I still come across good music that’s contemporary. That made me think.
When we first start our adventure, be it with books or music or anything else, we have access to decades (or centuries in some cases) of content. We get to find all the gems and favorite books, and they seem countless. Then, as we age, and we explore more and more, we only have the new releases left. This not only narrows our choice, but also dooms our perception. Only one book out of so many is going to be “good”, and while the ratio probably hadn’t changed, we tend to think so, because we feel we discover fewer interesting novels.
This might make people reluctant to explore or even disheartened about searching for new reads when so many books turn out to be disappointment. Compared to the memories of our early beginnings when every read was close to a revelation, the present time seem rather grim.
A writer should read a lot
I wholeheartedly agree with the idea, because conscious reading can replace countless craft books on writing. It also exposes the writer to various concepts and approaches to the story’s structure, characters, pacing, and even the use of style.
But, at the same time, it inevitably skews our perception as readers. As much as I want to enjoy a book I’m reading, I can’t help reading it with a writer’s perspective. I notice the deus-ex-machina plot solutions, I grit my teeth at the erratic behavior of the characters, and frown at pacing issues, to name just a few.
And it’s not the idea that “I could have done it better”. It’s not my story, and I probably wouldn’t give it justice even if I tried. It’s the thought that I know how it could be done. I know that the writing tools are out there, and to notice the writer didn’t use them affects my experience as a reader.
Being the reader I used to be
It’s not enough to realize the problem. Sure, I know I shouldn’t compare to my past experiences, but when every other book becomes a disappointment despite my desire to love it, it’s hard to keep positive. At the same time, as a reader who is also a writer, I want learn from the books I read. I want their plots, use of style, or interesting structure to amaze me.
I don’t want to lower my expectations just to read comfortably, but maybe I should? After all, I want to read more in hope to discover new great books, new favorite authors. I want to be the reader I used to be.
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.