If you’ve been following my reviews on GoodReads lately, you’ve probably noticed a trend. I’m not writing very many reviews. Or reading as much as I used to. And when I do read and review, they’re not really happy reviews. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. These were good books I was picking up. At least, they had to be halfway decent, with strong reviews by other readers to support such a claim. I used to get swept up by a story even if the writing wasn’t perfect, the characters coming alive in my mind and enacting whole new scenes while I lay in bed waiting to fall asleep. Was I just too tired? What was wrong with me???
This is how I used to read:
I could have stepped in a fox hole, or on a land mine, and I wouldn’t have noticed. I would have walked right past Mr. Darcy without a thought in my head for anything other than the story. So why do I now feel like Woody after reading the first three chapters of pretty much any book I pick up these days?
Then I came to a realization two Fridays ago while chatting with a good friend who also happens to be a writing buddy. I started out all sad… “It’s been a while since I’ve really enjoyed a good book,” I whined to her.
“Yeah,” she said. “I never thought it would happen to me, but I’ve started reading like a writer. It sucks, doesn’t it?”
But it’s true … of the last four books I’ve read, two I didn’t finish because “the pacing was off.” One I didn’t enjoy because the story started at the wrong point, failing to convince me of a vital plot point that predated the action by about two days. To top it off, the main character had an experience that was unbelievable (read: author didn’t do her research). And the fourth was a really well-researched collection of fairy tales from around the world that I loved.
I didn’t like those books because I was reading them like a writer. I even described the problems I had with them in my reviews without realizing they were things I was looking at as a writer. No! No no no no NO!
Denial is a river in Egypt. I know this because a couple weeks back our plane flew over it and I thought about pointing it out on the map to my four year old. Unfortunately, we were too far from the windows to have any chance of spotting it, whether or not it was visible from so high up. The map seemed kind of pointless. And I’m pretty sure she was sleeping.
There is no gif for the abject horror of this situation.
For now, I’m just hoping that I’ll find a way to turn the writer in me off so I can start enjoying all those awesome books again. Until then, I’ll just have to remember…