I Used to Read

This was supposed to be for last week, and for that I apologize. Mrs. Dave and I took off for parts more barbaric. Barbaric enough we were in an area of spotty reception, and when I scheduled the post, it … decided to schedule the post for the end of the month. The very end of the month. I didn’t find out until Amanda gave me a Digital Look, and by then it was far, far too late. I don’t know if it was WordPress, or my Pad of Evil, but both of them delenda est. Again, my apologies. The rest of it still holds true, though it looks as though Mrs. Dave may well be around for the rest of the summer. Which is both weird, and welcome.

It’s been a week. I mean, it’s always been a week since my last post, hasn’t it? Seven days: that’s a week, right there. No denying it. Not worth trying. Anyway, there’s a non-zero chance Mrs. Dave will be busy for the rest of the summer on work business (as opposed to being unable to travel due to nonsensical house arrest) and so we whipped up the Wee Horde and have gone a’viking. We’ve headed south, in order to introduce the children to the trees. Not those trees: the other trees.

Sooooo … I have a question for you, gentle readers. Especially those of you who are also writers. Actually, only those of you who are also writers (I know we have a few readers who don’t write. I’m not judging, mind you. The more, the merrier, and there’s always room for one more. I just wonder — from time to time — what you’re doing here.) I came to writing as a reader. I picked Dragonrider off the Irreverend’s shelf of scifi at the tender age of seven, and never looked back. Eventually, I started telling stories. I’m not sure if I had the seemingly archetypal, “I can do that better” moment (though I’ve definitely had that a bunch recently) to catapult me into writing. As an aside, there’s a closely related, “huh, I wonder how you’d actually get there” moment, which I have also experienced.

However, I eventually had to decide what I was going to do when I grew up (still waiting on that one, just getting a jump on the doing part), and it really came down to writing. It’s a curse. It might also be a living. Still, I’ve found that as I’ve developed as a writer, my reading has slowed down. More than a little bit. As much as I still enjoy story, I don’t do much of it in worlds I don’t make up (or open a mind-sized portal into. Hard to say). I know this isn’t the case for all writers (lookin’ at you, Mum), but I feel like I barely qualify as a power reader, anymore. So, do you who write still read? Do you read lots? Whole bunches? Enormous, tottering stacks of TBR balanced precariously on the bedside table, threatening to crash and smother you in your sleep?

I find I have a reluctance to invest emotionally in characters and worlds that aren’t mine. This is especially true when I haven’t written much, or enough lately. Of course, the other side is I just don’t have a lot of time and energy, and I’ve found reading takes a lot more of that than it used to, and doesn’t seem to give much back. I find, after all the work about the house, and keeping the littles fed and healthy, there just isn’t anything left in the tank. I plan to continue following long-running series, but picking up new ones just feels exhausting. Anybody encountered this?

20 comments

      1. I blame you people for about half the nonfiction stack (okay, stacks), most of which I’ll probably never get to more than skimming. Still, yonder is the info if I want it… *sigh*

        I actually prefer series, as if I’m invested I’d just as soon it, uh, continued to pay interest. But just not much that grabs me anymore. In part due to grimdark and greygoo, in part to same-old-same-old (the curse of having done TOO much reading, being I hie from when allfen had read literally every SF/F book available). And partly because editing is evidently a lost art. Yeah, I’ve become a curmudgeon.

        1. I’m not a writer, but the MGC columns tend to be stories, too. Doesn’t hurt that a substantial number of books on my Kindle come from MGC authors or have been mentioned in various Deplorable blogs. (Which is why I’m going through The Los Alamos Primer now. Commenters tend to leave interesting breadcrumbs for my urge to read…)

  1. Some of it might be that you’re tired and busy, and some of it might be middle age. I had a big slowdown of reading when I turned 30, although I think my depth of comprehension and feeling increased for some things. (And I got into a lot of new nonfiction topics.) On the bright side, I stopped feeling so obsessive about reading that I had to read the cereal box twice or three times.

    OTOH, I also think middle-aged brain is why a lot of us started getting into audiobooks so heavily. Somebody else is doing a lot of the work for us, and we don’t have to sit down and find time and focus. You have kids, but you can also use wireless earbuds, etc., to keep the kiddies from hearing anything they shouldn’t.

    But yeah, obnoxious overwrought messaging was one of the big reasons I started reading less, and that’s why indie has given me the strength to read random stuff again.

    1. I have yet to finish a story, but– I can verify that Banshee is on the right track for kid stress eating your reading brain.

      I don’t read as much, I want different stuff (sometimes stuff I’ve never even looked at before– seriously, a collection of travel letters from some guy visiting the US a century ago? What? But “What I Saw In America” hit the spot, in small doses.) or I want comfort reads that I can still chew on.

      Terry Pratchett is pretty good for that. I liked Embers, the fanfic by Vathara, when we were moving and….lots of stress stuff.

      Just less energy for it.

  2. I read lots and lots of non-fiction, in part for Day Job, in part because, well, it’s complicated. I find less and less time to read fiction, in part because after the work day ends, I can be with the rest of the family (TV is on) or I can read (in a different room, because the TV is on). Most of the non-fic I can read with TV in the background. Fiction . . . not so much.

  3. I read less . . . not counting online surfing, blogs, FB etc . . . than before I gave in and started serious writing.

    It’s partly a lack of time, but mostly, IMO, because the writing fills a hunger for new things, adventures, thrills, whatever, even better than reading. It satisfies that “sense of wonder.” And drive to create. It exercises my brain. Something like that, or all of the above.

  4. I don’t read as voraciously as I did as a kid/teen. In part, as others here have said, it may be middle-age brain. But I also just don’t have the huge amounts of free time. Job, house, critters, aged parents, grandparent (no kids, alas).

    I came to love audiobooks first via a very dull data entry job in my 20s, and since because I commute an hour each way to and from work every day. (Though I also discovered podcasts a few years ago, which feeds my true crime love.)

    I still read plenty, though. I am a LOT pickier, however.

  5. I still read. Fiction of various genres as well as blog posts. Much to the frustration of my current WIP, since I’m spending way too much time reading and not nearly enough time writing.

    And with that, it’s back to the word mines for me….

  6. — So, do you who write still read? —

    Great God in heaven, it sometimes seems I do nothing else. My Kindle needs to be recharged every other day! A writer must know what his colleagues are doing — at least, if he wants to avoid accidentally mimicking them!

    I get a lot of static about it from my wife, predominantly of two varieties:
    1) “Why aren’t you writing?”
    2) “When are you going to get to [insert wife-assigned chore here]?”

    If it weren’t for my intimidating growl, I’d…oh, never mind.

  7. I am probably spending more time reading (fiction, that is) than when the “normal” job was consuming sixty hours a week most weeks. Although I still had a few times with a new book of “OH-MY-GOD-THE-SUN-IS-RISING-AND-IT’S-NOVEMBER!”.

    But I am reading less content these days, as a wannabe writer. I’m using a lot of time asking:

    “Why doesn’t this work?” “Could it be made to work?” “Do I have something like this in my writing?” “How do I get rid of it, and avoid it in the future?” “Do I want to avoid it, or grow by figuring out how to make it work?”

    “Why does this work?” “Can I make this work in my writing?” “Does it have to work this way?” “Who else made something like this work?” “What do I have to learn to get away with this?”

    The above is only a very partial list of what goes through my head as I read anything these days.

    Just the cover takes more time now! It’s no longer a “Cool,” or “Meh,” or “Ick” and immediately proceeding to crack that shell to get at the good stuff – it’s a lot of time figuring out why that cover does what it does to me.

  8. There’s no denying that writing will affect your reading. In particular, revising will affect your reading, because it’s hard to turn off.

      1. U List – The Aspiring

        Thinking about writing something.
        Wonders where they’ll find the time?
        Don’t feel bad. We all started somewhere.

  9. Children, eyesight, social media.

    When I was a power reader, lived with a novel open below my desk, started one on the way to school in the morning and finished a second one by the end of the day…yes, THIN, silly romances, but even so… I could do that. Start a book on a summer evening and finish it as the sky was becoming light. But I always wanted to finish in mostly one go.

    Children ended that and I started re-reading so I didn’t mind setting the book down.

    Then my eyesight started to go and I didn’t realize it at first so sitting down to read, even a familiar book, became subconsciously irritating so I read less until I was reading not-at-all. Getting glasses solved the problem but not the habit.

    And social media. Though that ties in with wanting to read a whole novel in one go and life is still there, interrupting. So the shorter commitments take over.

    But writing? I think that I NEED to read to write. Actually making myself watch TV shows seems to help, too, at least a little bit. My TBR pile (of electrons) is high and I haven’t read so many books that I truly WANT to read. And that’s time and at this point *habit*. And it’s not a good thing.

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