For many of us authors, our love for reading is, at least in part, what drove us to become authors in the first place.
And now that we’re published, there are benefits of remaining dedicated readers. Among other advantages, reading helps us to stay fresh, imaginative, and sharp; to keep up with what’s happening in our genres; and to recognize examples of what to do—and what not to do—in our own work. Reading helps us to hone and improve our writing craft. Even if writing, publishing, marketing, etc. means we don’t have as much time to read as we used to, the quality of our reading matters more than the quantity of books we get through.
Still, when I hear someone say that becoming an author has made reading less of a joy for them, I get it.
I’m no stranger to the internal editor that clicks on while I’m reading. It’s great for when I’m actually editing or when I’m reading for critique or review. But when I’m trying to relax and read for leisure, that internal editor can be a whole ‘nother something to deal with.
“Eeesh, writer’s brain! Put a big, fat, woolly sock in it already! I’m trying to READ, for goodness’ sake.”
The more serious we become about writing and literature, the more we must notice and pay attention to the major and minor details that make up good (and poor) writing. If we didn’t worry about it as much back in our Carefree Bookworm days, then, yeah. It can be a pain now, when we want to simply enjoy a book. For some authors, it can even become a deterrent to reading.
But for me personally, I’d be doggoned if I let the work of being an author rob me of the joy of being a reader.
I’ve had to adjust to the reality that reading for leisure will never be exactly the same pursuit it once was for me, back in my pre-authorship days. And that’s okay.
I think of it as something like celebrating Christmas as a child versus celebrating Christmas as an adult. It’s one thing when your only job is to put on your pajamas, go to bed, and wake up in the morning to find that presents have appeared under the tree. It’s something else to be the one responsible for making sure those presents appear.
It doesn’t mean you have to stop enjoying Christmas, though, just because it’s no longer the same. You enjoy it in a different way now. Besides, your maturity gives you the capacity to appreciate the holiday more now than you did as a child. Much that determines your enjoyment of the holiday is your attitude about it.
Or take, say, romance and marriage as an example. Romance may be one thing before the responsibilities of marriage and possibly the addition of children. A relationship with someone you’re just getting to know isn’t the same as a relationship with someone you’ve been married to for a while. But that doesn’t mean the romance of it all eventually has to go on out the window.
As a relationship matures, romance gradually takes on a different flavor, a different significance. And in a healthy marriage, it’s better years down the road than it was at the beginning, if a couple learns to appreciate love and romance for what it becomes.
Well, for this author, reading isn’t the same as it once was. But it’s not supposed to be. When I approach reading with the right attitude, it’s actually better now.
If you as an author want to enjoy a book you’ve pulled out to read for leisure (whatever “reading for leisure” is for you 🙂 ), you’ll likely need to let go of some of your author’s ego. Some authors may do this naturally. Others may have to be more intentional about it.
It doesn’t necessarily mean your internal editor or writer’s brain will become blind or indifferent as you read. But when you acknowledge and become good with the fact that it isn’t your job to “fix” this book somehow, it’s easier to relax. The book you’re reading may or may not be everything you think it should be, but in either case, it’s okay. The book is what it is, and in a big way, it doesn’t need your help.
As an author, reading for enjoyment takes grace. Grace to know that no author—whether a novice or a veteran—is perfect, no book on earth is perfect to/for everyone, and countless imperfect books have and will continue to make a difference in people’s lives. Grace allows your writer’s brain to learn from or to take special note of what you’re reading while your reader’s heart takes pleasure in the reading experience.
Your internal editor doesn’t have to be noisy, demanding, or intrusive. Grace (and letting go of some ego) allows your internal editor to become a fitting supplement to your reading, not a hindrance to it. Many times, you might even stop noticing all the work your writer’s brain is doing while your reader’s heart is caught up in a good book. After you finish it, you and your writer’s brain can briefly go back and take stock of what you read, if you like.
Granted, the further along you come as a writer, it might mean you have to seek out new challenges and new interests in your reading. You may or may not get the same level of satisfaction out of the kinds of books you read before you became an author.
Yet, when your ego is in check, you consider that this is a big world, and you’ve not come near to reading all of the brilliant writing in it. There are indeed books that can still interest and challenge you, no matter how good of a writer you’re becoming.
If you’re an author who keeps on reading for its benefits, the right attitude and a little grace can help you maintain, or even reclaim, the joy of it.