One of the worst things about becoming a writer is the way it has affected my reading. Ann asked in the previous post, how we indulged ourselves. And the question bugged me all day. I *used* to indulge myself by reading. It was my greatest pleasure. (Well, up there close to the top of the list, anyway. And one of the few great pleasures you can do--and in fact, do best--by yourself. ) And it was such a guilty pleasure. There were always things that I should have been doing. It made it seem all the more like I was giving myself a treat, which made reading a real indulgence.
Then I started actively writing and found myself critiquing everything I read. That took some of the joy away. As I became a better writer, I learned not critic quite so extensively, partly because I also learned that I didn't have to finish every book I started. If I can't get into the book enough to shut the critic up, I quit reading. As I became more secure in the strength of my own writing, I felt less obligated to 'learn' something from every book I read. That also took some of the pressure off and gave a little of the pleasure back. I also gave myself permission to go back and study later--I don't have to stop in the middle of the book and examine how or what the author did so right--the books or passages that impress or blow me away, that helped bring back some of the enjoyment. But where is the indulgence? Where's that guilty sense of pampering myself, just because I settle down with a book?
Part of the problem, I'm sure, is that I read very few books, for no other reason than I want to read them. There is never enough time. My 2 B Read pile, if all stacked together, would rival Mt. Kilimanjaro. But when I start looking at the various stacks for what to read next, at least 2 dozen books seem to holler, "Hey. Me, next. You *need* to read me." There are research books, books from a publisher or market I'd like to submit to, books by friends, books to judge for some contest. In other words, books I *need* to read for some reason that has nothing to do with the pure joy of reading. That doesn't mean that I don't find books I enjoy along the way. (One of last year's RITA books was a surprising joy, especially since it was in a subgenre I don't normally care for.) It all means that reading isn't the greatly anticipated indulgence it used to be.
It isn't even as much fun to buy books. I remember when a couple of hours wandering in a bookstore brought almost as much pleasure as reading. The big challenge was not buying more than I could afford. Now, I rarely find myself buying books that don't have some 'reason' attached to them. It's like reading has become part of my job. (And I remember when that thought would have excited me sooooo much. Getting to read as part of my job? Who could ask for anything better?)
I know I can't be the only one who has felt this way. So, how do I 'fix' it? How do I bring back the passion and the joy of it? I sure hope someone has an Rx. I sorely miss the guilty pleasure.