Reading is different now

In my childhood I would plunge into the world inside a book, to emerge hours later. As I grew older, that magic remained but weaker; I would read while cooking, while on the train, when doing all sorts of other things, but just sitting reading was not always a possibility.

Over the past couple of years things have changed. Now I make a living out of reading, one way or another. Either I’m reading stories to check for sense, writing style and technique, and making comments throughout, or I’m going through every detail checking for errors and correcting them. Either way, reading is slow and sometimes painful, and there is usually some sort of conversation between me and the writer.

Even reading books for pleasure isn’t quite the same; as a member of Amazon Vine, I receive books and other products in exchange for an honest review of them, so even when I’ve chosen a book and am reading it for pleasure, I’m mentally composing a review, thinking of phrases to describe what I think of it, working out how many stars I want to give it, and sometimes reading on when I might have otherwise let it drift out of my attention.

Just occasionally, I choose a book and pay for it, and then I can read it purely for pleasure. But even that has changed lately. Now I’m thinking about the words and phrases used, how the characters and situations are built, what in the story keeps me interested.

My latest read is even worse, as it’s written by someone I know. I have no obligation to review it. There will be no conversation with the author as to why she wrote something a certain way, or introduced this storyline here, or chose to handle the characters that way. But it’s still not something I can just read and enjoy, because I’m also examining her description, her character development, her handling of multiple timelines, and trying to figure out some of her secrets. And I’m feeling inadequate, because I recognise the qualities in her writing that are lacking from mine, and also inspired, because if she can do it why can’t I?

And so reading has taken on a whole new dimension for me. It’s impossible these days to just sit and enjoy a story with no desire to analyse it. Mostly, I’m okay with that, because the change has brought its own benefits.

But I do miss that utter absorption I used to have before I was so aware of all the writing skills involved and busy trying to master them myself.


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