WRITING – AND WHY IT RUINS READING

I have always loved books and there are several rafters in the loft that are bearing the weight of this obsession.  One day – next to the bricks and plaster, a lone copy of some once loved story staring up from the grass, the onlooker will explain to the nice policeman that there was a groan and then boom, the house just collapsed.

I partly hold my mum and grandma responsible, they taught me to read at a ridiculously early age.

At six, my mother probably regretted both her efforts and my aptitude as I got sent home from school for throwing a tantrum (and a book).  The teacher had tried to force me to read one of the “Peter and Jane” series aloud to the class. I didn’t want to read this “baby” book and pointed to the story-time books designed for the educator to read (in my feverish six-year-old opinion these looked much more interesting).

“You can’t read those dear, try these first”

“I can read them..”

“Don’t be ridiculous, now stop making a fuss”

Regrettably my frustration got the better of me (as I was already reading the “Famous five” series by Enid Blyton) so poor “Peter and Jane”” went airborne.

My dad should share some of the responsibility, he used to read me bedtime stories and often over seas for months, the only way I was going to get to the end was by reading them myself.  As another bibliophile, he also supplied a childhood home which had bookcases and shelves in every room overloaded with every type of book imaginable.

Third in the dock, are my two older siblings (who also have the reading bug) for leaving a supply of forbidden horror books laying about. It was the Eighties  – what can I say? – Stephen King, James Herbert, Dean Koontz, Shaun Hutson and the list goes on, these fed my wish for anything in print, with the added bonus of “naughty” bits.

On discovering my secret reading of  adult themed books, (I was eight) my dad asked if I understood the content. Sheepishly, I remember replying that I couldn’t understand some of the longer words. He walked out of the bedroom and I thought – wow, now I am in big trouble, he’s gone to get mum.

Returning, sitting on my bed and handing over a dictionary he said “if you don’t know something then look it up. There’s always a book that can teach you what you want to know and if anything in here scares you, please come and talk to me. Remember, these are only stories.”

I handled the dictionary and nodded sagely.

“Dad there are some things I don’t understand?” – I quickly point out one of the naughty paragraphs. My Dad turns bright red, kisses me on the head and replies:

“Ask your mother in the morning.”

But now, dear reader, I am writing. I still read but it is in a different way – I look at structure, clunky language, did they show or tell? This gives me insight into how the author achieves his/her aim of telling a story, how they put things together but I also find it difficult to switch my critical eye off. No more, am I simply reading and escaping into my imagination. I am conscious of the words on the page or the text on the screen.

WRITING is ruining my READING.

I’d love to hear if you’ve experienced something similar?

13 thoughts on “WRITING – AND WHY IT RUINS READING

  1. I’ve become the same way. If I’m reading a book and I find the author’s style intriguing I end up paying more attention to how they write instead of just reading. My parents also taught me to read at a very earlier age and I’ve always been a book worm. Recently, now that I’m working on my novel, I’ve had to just stop reading so I would not get so absorbed in someone else’s writing. Hopefully I will be able to get over this once I’ve written my first novel.

    • It’s such a difficult balance isn’t it? I think it links into your “voice” or “style” as a writer. I’ve caught myself mimicking authors I really like in my writing (if I am reading at the same time). I am also not sure you ever get over it, once the veil hs been lifted. But let’s hope between the two of us that maybe we can go back to just enjoying a really good story at some point. :o)

  2. I definitely read with a writer’s eye, the same as i watch TV or films with a writer’s or director’s eye. But i see it as part of learning the craft, not as spoiling the enjoyment. I enjoy it more because i have understood why a plotline developed that way, or why a scene was shot with that colour filter.

    I used to work for a DVD rental firm a while back, and i couldn’t go to the cinema without predicting the box office take of the films being trailered, or deciding which of the shops to buy it for.

    I guess what i’m saying is that it if writing is like a job to you, you will always look on anything written with a professional eye.

  3. I had a similar experience when I was in first grade. One day I was in the library and got a book from the fifth grade section. The teacher doubted my ability to read it, pointed out the word ‘ought’ and asked what it meant. I didn’t know what it was (actually I knew the word and what it meant but had never seen it in print before) and she put the book back and told me to read something in my own section. So I got a dictionary, looked up the word and went back and got the book and read and understood it just fine. I had been reading since I was two so the first grade books just didn’t do it for me. I kind of understand what she did but what I don’t understand is why I had to go to the dictionary to learn the word. Isn’t it the job of a teacher to teach?

    • I liked your list post yesterday. :o) – I really like your blog or I wouldn’t read it. I am soooo shallow that way. Plus, I am learning skills all the time being a newbie blogger. I have to go back and edit my posts a lot. Sometimes I’ll look at an old first draft of a first post and cringe…. We are all just learning :o)

  4. I am intrigued why some books flow seamlessly and some bounce along with a lot of effort. To find out why I analyse and then the joy of reading that seamless novel is lost. I vow to read it and enjoy straight through then go to the front again and make notes the second time through. Doesn’t always work, but I try

    • I have just started to re-read quite a few of my favourites (with a writers eye) and as a genre tart, it’s quite a long and varied list.

      One of the things that really worries me is I quite often have to stop and give myself a good talking to because of the quality of some of the work – “I want to write it” becomes “I wish I had written”. I try and forget the sheer terror and tell myself that one day I’ll be able to write something that good!

  5. My writer’s eye is very critical these days, but I try to keep it in check. The only time it takes a back seat is when I’m reading crime fiction. I’m well into the second book of Larsson’s ‘Millennium’ trilogy and it’s just motoring along – I don’t stop to analyse anything. 🙂

    • I love the trilogy and was really sad when I found out that the author was no longer with us. I am glad his wife did the right thing as the world would be poorer place without those three books in it.

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