Monday 21 May 2012

Writing killed my reading

I read a book for fun the other day. I mean, not for research or analysis or anything like that. Just fun.

It's been a while since I've been able to do that.

You see, being a writer does strange things to your reading. As a writer I've had to learn about how to structure a plot, how to create characters, how to lay out scenes. I wrestle daily with how to insert this or that factor into the narrative without losing the flow; with crafting each chapter so as to encourage the reader to keep reading. With basically toying with the reader's emotions and perceptions to achieve particular effects.

It's an imperfect art, and there's always more to learn but the fact is, once you start doing it, you get curious about how other writers do it. So you pick up a book, open the first page and think, 'that's an effective opening, must try that one.' Reading a novel and spotting all the author's methods is like walking around a movie set during filming. You see all the tricks and you won't be so easily absorbed by the finished product because essentially you can see all the joins.

T'was not always so. Like many writers, I came to this from a love of reading. Books are gateways to different worlds and for many years they would utterly absorb me, transporting me someplace else for hours at a time. It's a magical feeling when that happens, and it is like a drug, but lately I just can't get high so easily. Maybe age has something to do with it. You read enough books and after a while they start to repeat themselves, so you become harder to please. But if that's the case then being able to see through the writer's veil only accelerates the process. Soon enough you get tired of the disappointment.

I did stop reading fiction for a while. Nothing grabbed me any more so I started reading non-fiction instead. This was essentially research for my writing and it was always interesting, because truth really can be stranger than fiction. But I knew I had to read at least some fiction - it's called 'researching the market' and is considered essential for a writer, so that they remain aware of current trends and such. I'd read a novel then because I had to, and I'd try to get myself through it. It was hard work though since all I saw was scaffolding and props. It was always educational, but I cannot say that it was a pleasure.

It was work.

Once in a while though you come across something that licks your senses the minute you start reading. You're grabbed by the throat and pulled through customs, your passport confiscated and your luggage thrown over the barrier, and before you know it you've been transported again, whisked through time and space in an out of body experience. That's when you forget to check for joins, you accept the scenery without wondering if it's real and you forget about interrogating the actors.

You're just there, and that's it.

And when it's all over, you remember what it was that drew you to writing in the first place. Because what one writer has done for you, you want to do for someone else. You want to have that effect too. And you know you need to learn it.

So then you start analysing, and the whole cycle begins again.


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