Reading As Part Of The “Job”
When I was in my early teens, I was into reading romance. All the Harlequin books I could get my hands on. I would fake being sick (yeah, I did that) so I could stay home and read. Mom would run up to the local drugstore and buy me two to three Harlequins at a time, while I was “ill.” They weren’t epic in size by any stretch, maybe something like…175 to 180 pages or so? But, I’d start one, finish it, then start another – all in the same day.
Then, when I was in my late twenties, I was a die-hard, fervent Stephen King fan, and when I would hear he had a new book out, (the bigger, the better!) I bought it, and saved it for the weekend. And, I would read it over that weekend in it’s entirety. I would start on a Friday night, and be done by Sunday. (Then I’d be mad at myself because I had to wait for his next – which might not be out for a whole two years.)
So, I know I’m not a slow reader. When I posted the Goodreads stats out to Twitter and Facebook, I felt a little shamefaced. I mean, as a writer, shouldn’t I be able to read more than one book a month? Can’t I fit in one a week, at least? Apparently not, even though I read every. single. night. That’s the issue, really. The reading at night thing. That’s the only time I “allow” myself to crack open a book, and of course, by then, I’m tired and know I’m only going to get five pages in, maybe ten, if it’s a really good story.
I know of other writers who write in the morning and read in the afternoon. Or flip it around. I just can’t. There’s something about daylight and me – okay it’s really just me – where I feel guilty sitting down with a book while the sun’s shining bright. I think it’s because I still view reading as enjoyment, not a job. Sure, I find myself reading critically all the time, which is part of a writer’s need in experiencing all the different ways of developing a story. A variety of road maps, if you will, for getting to THE END. Only, it goes against that “real” job schtick no matter how I talk to myself about it. I can’t justify doing it – even when I know unless I read, I won’t get to study how other writers solved plot problems, described a setting, or worked through realistic dialogue, for example.
I realize I’m limiting myself by thinking this way because there’s that whole “read far and wide” thing too. I can’t get but so much of the far, or the wide in, when my total count is – TWELVE. And because I know I’m only going to read X number of books, I tend to be very picky about what I pick up next. Sure, I’ve heard time and again any book can help a writer hone their skills, no matter the genre – only, hello? TWELVE. And if I can’t get passed TWELVE, I want the most out of my reading time. At night. (Yeah, my self-inflicted “rule” is starting to sound dumb, even to me.)
I can hear some of you, so, why don’t you just make more time by getting over your silly “can’t read during the day?” Here’s where I get to be REAL honest. If my husband came in and saw me curled up in the living room with my latest read – ONE FOOT IN EDEN – I would have this huge feeling of GUILT. Guilt because he’s out there, running himself ragged while I’m sitting in there… reading. HE wouldn’t care – he gets it – it’s me. My head. My way of thinking.
It’s like that whole argument about breasts and breast feeding. Some folks can’t get past the idea of breasts as sexual objects while others have no problem with them being displayed in public for the purpose they were intended – as a functional part of their body meant to nourish their child. And this, in some lame way, is my own argument. Since so many of us read as a pleasurable pastime, I find it hard to categorize it as work. Besides, books are marketed like that, like movies. We start seeing the lists for “great beach reads,” in the spring, and if any of us are going on summer vacation, what’s the first thing people want to know? What books are you taking to read on the plane, boat, or car? And, we give people books as GIFTS. Anyone ever hand you something to do at work that you considered a gift???
This isn’t a big deal. I guess if I needed to, I would try and change my way of thinking. For instance, if my current WIP was turning into a smelly pile of stagnation, or, if I had run out of ideas of what to write next, or if I simply needed inspiration, I’m sure I’d find a way to pick up a book in the middle of the day. Peak at it. Read a page or two. A chapter even.
But, the guilt, and that way of thinking about reading as a “job,” that’s the hard part, for me anyway. What about you?